Microgenomics profile the endogenous angiogenic phenotype in subpopulations of aggressive melanoma

Demou, Z. N.; Hendrix, M. J.

J Cell Biochem. 2008 Jul 26; 105(2):562-73


Beyond the elemental role of blood vessels in tumor growth, fluid conducting networks lacking endothelium (termed vasculogenic mimicry) were identified previously in metastatic melanoma and other cancer types. The etiology remains unclear, though it appears to involve dysregulation of the tumor-specific phenotype and transdifferentiation. Instigating the molecular deciphering of this phenomenon, we established a novel technique for microdissecting the spontaneously formed vascular-like networks and the randomly arranged cells (nests) from living 3D cultures of melanoma and performed microgenomics analysis. For the first time we show that despite the shared genotype, transcription was differentially regulated among the phenotypically distinct melanoma structures in vasculogenic mimicry. Several angiogenesis-specific genes were differentially expressed in higher levels in network cells of both uveal and cutaneous melanoma with intriguing representation of the ephrin family of angiogenesis factors, which was confirmed with immunocytochemistry. Interestingly, the adjacent nest-cells over-expressed ECM-related genes. Moreover, expression of angiogenesis-specific genes in melanoma resembled that of normal microvascular cells and was enhanced in melanoma disseminating hematogenously. The findings suggest that melanoma plasticity could enable autopoiesis of vascular-mimicking elements within the tumor infrastructure with significant clinical implications, such as response to anti-angiogenic treatments. Identifying factors regulating tumor plasticity and heterogeneity at the molecular level is essential in designing effective anti-cancer therapies.

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