, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 118-128

The Ets-1 transcription factor is involved in the development and invasion of malignant melanoma

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The Ets-1 transcription factor plays a role in tumor vascularization and invasion by regulating expression of matrix-degrading proteases in endothelial cells and fibroblasts in the tumor stroma. During early embryogenesis, Ets-1 is expressed in migrating neural crest cells from which melanocytes arise. In the present study, we analyzed Ets-1 expression in various melanocytic lesions and investigated its functional importance in malignant melanomas. We found that Ets-1 was upregulated both in vivo and in vitro in malignant melanoma, compared to benign melanocytic lesions and to primary melanocytes. Assessment of DNA-binding and transactivation assays documented a strong Ets activity in melanoma cells. Using an antisense strategy, the expression and activity of Ets-1 were reduced in the melanoma cell line Mel Im. This correlated with a diminished expression of several Ets-1 target genes known to be involved in invasion, such as MMP1, MMP3, uPA and integrin β3. In line with these findings, the invasive potential of the melanoma cells measured in a Boyden Chamber model was reduced up to 60% after Ets-1 blockade. This can be attributed to the role of Ets-1 in transcriptional regulation of factors involved in invasion of melanoma cells. We conclude that over-expression of Ets-1 during melanoma development contributes to the malignant phenotype.

Received 29 August 2003; received after revision 13 October 2003; accepted 11 November 2003