Heterogeneity of Metastatic Melanoma:  Correlation of MITF With Its Transcriptional Targets MLSN1, PEDF, HMB-45, and MART-1

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Objectives: Histologic and molecular heterogeneity is well recognized in malignant melanoma; however, the diversity of expression of new and classic melanoma markers has not been correlated in serial sections of metastases.

Methods: We examined and correlated the expression of microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF) with its transcriptional targets, including melastatin (MLSN1/TRPM1), pigment epithelium-derived factor (SERPINF1/PEDF), SILV/PMEL17/GP100 (human melanoma black 45 [HMB-45]), and melanoma antigen recognized by T cells 1 (MART-1)/MLANA, in 13 melanoma metastases in lymph nodes of 13 patients. The expression levels and patterns of marker expression were recorded by a semiquantitative, 4-point ordinal reactivity method.

Results: Our results showed a consistently robust and diffuse expression of MITF protein in 12 (92%) of 13 metastatic tumors compared with variable expression of MLSN1 (46%) messenger RNA or PEDF (75%), HMB-45 (54%), and MART-1 (46%) proteins.

Conclusions: Overall, in melanoma lymph node metastases, MITF protein expression was not tightly correlated with its gene targets. Moreover, the immunoreactivity for MITF, compared with MART-1 and HMB-45, was retained, supporting immunohistochemical detection of MITF as a more sensitive method of detecting metastatic melanoma.

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