Research Papers:

The role of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in melanoma epithelial-to-mesenchymal-like switching: evidences from patients-derived cell lines

Daniela Kovacs _, Emilia Migliano, Luca Muscardin, Vitaliano Silipo, Caterina Catricalà, Mauro Picardo and Barbara Bellei

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:43295-43314. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9232

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Daniela Kovacs1, Emilia Migliano2, Luca Muscardin3, Vitaliano Silipo4, Caterina Catricalà4, Mauro Picardo1, Barbara Bellei1

1Laboratory of Cutaneous Physiopathology and Integrated Center of Metabolomics Research, San Gallicano Dermatologic Institute, IRCCS, Rome, Italy

2Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, San Gallicano Dermatologic Institute, IRCCS, Rome, Italy

3Dermatopathological Laboratory, San Gallicano Dermatologic Institute, IRCCS, Rome, Italy

4Department of Oncologic Dermatology, San Gallicano Dermatologic Institute, IRCCS, Rome, Italy

Correspondence to:

Barbara Bellei, email: [email protected]

Keywords: WNT/β-catenin, melanoma heterogeneity, proliferation, metastases

Received: November 03, 2015    Accepted: April 10, 2016    Published: May 09, 2016


Deregulations or mutations of WNT/β-catenin signaling have been associated to both tumour formation and progression. However, contradictory results concerning the role of β-catenin in human melanoma address an open question on its oncogenic nature and prognostic value in this tumour. Changes in WNT signaling pathways have been linked to phenotype switching of melanoma cells between a highly proliferative/non-invasive and a slow proliferative/metastatic condition. We used a novel panel of cell lines isolated from melanoma specimens, at initial passages, to investigate phenotype differences related to the levels and activity of WNT/β-catenin signaling pathway. This in vitro cell system revealed a marked heterogeneity that comprises, in some cases, two distinct tumour-derived subpopulations of cells presenting a different activation level and cellular distribution of β-catenin. In cells derived from the same tumor, we demonstrated that the prevalence of LEF1 (high β-catenin expressing cells) or TCF4 (low β-catenin expressing cells) as β-catenin partner for DNA binding, is associated to the expression of two distinct profiles of WNT-responsive genes. Interestingly, melanoma cells expressing relative low level of β-catenin and an invasive markers signature were associated to the TNF-α-induced pro-inflammatory pathway and to the chemotherapy resistance, suggesting that the co-existence of melanoma subpopulations with distinct biological properties could influence the impact of chemo- and immunotherapy.

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