Expression and distribution of MMPs and TIMPs in human uveal melanoma

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Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs) are involved in tumour invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis, and have been implicated as progression markers in uveal melanoma, although their topographical expression has not been fully described. In this study we compared the distribution and specificity of several classes of MMPs (MMP-1, -2, -9, -19, and MT1-MMP) and physiological MMP inhibitors (TIMP-2 and -3) in different regions of the tumour microenvironment and adjacent choroid in a series of primary uveal melanomas. Paraffin sections of untreated uveal melanomas (n = 18, 3/18 spindle; 11/18 mixed, and 4/18 epithelioid) were examined for MMP-1 (collagenase 1), MMP-2 and MMP-9 (gelatinases A and B), MT1-MMP (membrane-type 1-MMP), MMP-19, TIMP-2 and TIMP-3 (tissue inhibitors of MMPs), using indirect peroxidase immunohistochemistry. The distribution and intensity of immunolabelling was graded semi-quantitatively (0–3) by 2 independent observers. Non-parametric analyses were used to test for associations between tumour cell type, and the average grade of MMP or TIMP expression. Immunostaining for MMP-1, -9, -19 and MT1-MMP was ≥Grade 2 in more than 70% of specimens, and a heterogeneous pattern of MMP-1, -9, MT1-MMP and TIMP-3 expression was observed. At the tumour-scleral interface (TSI), melanoma cells had a flattened morphology and a much reduced MMP and TIMP expression, with a high expression in tumour areas adjacent to the TSI. Tumour vasculature and stromal cells strongly expressed MMP-2. We also observed heterogeneous immunostaining of the vasculature by MMP-1, -9, MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 antibodies, and of the extravascular matrix by MMP-9 antibody. The distinct immunostaining patterns observed for MMPs and TIMPs within uveal melanoma are consistent with their involvement in tumour growth and angiogenesis. In particular, the heterogeneous expression within regions of the tumours, and the localized expression in vasculature and stromal cells emphasises the importance of the tumour microenvironment in the pathogenesis of uveal melanoma (and other tumours).

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