, Volume 28, Issue 8, pp 877-886
Date: 31 Aug 2011

Ob/ob serum promotes a mesenchymal cell phenotype in B16BL6 melanoma cells

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In 2009, malignant melanoma was responsible for approximately 9,000 deaths in the US. These deaths are often associated with aggressive metastasis to secondary sites such as the lungs. Epidemiological and animal studies suggest that obesity is a risk factor for melanoma. Others have shown that B16BL6 melanoma cells metastasize more aggressively in obese ob/ob than in lean mice. However, the mechanism by which obesity promotes B16BL6 melanoma metastasis in ob/ob mice has not been identified. In the present study, we used serum obtained from control and ob/ob leptin-deficient obese mice to determine if obese serum increases the aggressive phenotype of melanoma cells. Results showed that ob/ob serum has higher levels of resistin, insulin, tPAI1, IL-6, TNF-α, and MCP-1 compared to control serum. We showed that ob/ob serum increases the invasive ability of B16BL6 melanomas. To further determine the mechanism by which ob/ob serum increases the invasive ability of melanomas, we determined the effect of ob/ob and control serum on genes associated with the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Cancer cells with a mesenchymal phenotype have a higher metastatic ability. Snai1 and Twist are genes that are strongly associated with EMT and metastasis of melanomas. Our results showed that ob/ob serum increases the expression of Snai1 and Twist. Moreover, ob/ob serum increased matrix metalloproteast 9 (MMP9) activity and decreased the expression of E-cadherin and the metastasis suppressor gene Kiss1. In summary, results suggest that obesity may increase the metastatic ability of melanoma by promoting a mesenchymal cell phenotype.