Thrombospondin-1 is part of a Slug-independent motility and metastatic program in cutaneous melanoma, in association with VEGFR-1 and FGF-2

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Differently from most transformed cells, cutaneous melanoma expresses the pleiotropic factor thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1). Herein, we show that TSP-1 (RNA and protein), undetectable in four cultures of melanocytes and a RGP melanoma, was variously present in 13 cell lines from advanced melanomas or metastases. Moreover, microarray analysis of 55 human lesions showed higher TSP-1 expression in primary melanomas and metastases than in common and dysplastic nevi. In a functional enrichment analysis, the expression of TSP-1 correlated with motility-related genes. Accordingly, TSP-1 production was associated with melanoma cell motility in vitro and lung colonization potential in vivo. VEGF/VEGFR-1 and FGF-2, involved in melanoma progression, regulated TSP-1 production. These factors were coexpressed with TSP-1 and correlated negatively with Slug (SNAI2), a cell migration master gene implicated in melanoma metastasis. We conclude that TSP-1 cooperates with FGF-2 and VEGF/VEGFR-1 in determining melanoma invasion and metastasis, as part of a Slug-independent motility program.

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