, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 19-29
Date: 29 Dec 2012

Pilot Study on “Pericytic Mimicry” and Potential Embryonic/Stem Cell Properties of Angiotropic Melanoma Cells Interacting with the Abluminal Vascular Surface

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The interaction of tumor cells with the tumor vasculature is mainly studied for its role in tumor angiogenesis and intravascular metastasis of circulating tumor cells. In addition, a specific interaction of tumor cells with the abluminal surfaces of vessels, or angiotropism, may promote the migration of angiotropic tumor cells along the abluminal vascular surfaces in a pericytic location. This process has been termed extravascular migratory metastasis. The abluminal vascular surface may also provide a vascular niche inducing or sustaining stemness to angiotropic tumor cells. This pilot study investigated if angiotropic melanoma cells might represent a subset population with pericytic and embryonic or stem cell properties. Through microarray analysis, we showed that the interaction between melanoma cells and the abluminal surface of endothelial cells triggers significant differential expression of several genes. The most significantly differentially expressed genes have demonstrated properties linked to cancer cell migration (CCL2, ICAM1 and IL6), cancer progression (CCL2, ICAM1, SELE, TRAF1, IL6, SERPINB2 and CXCL6), epithelial to mesenchymal transition (CCL2 and IL6), embryonic/stem cell properties (CCL2, PDGFB, EVX1 and CFDP1) and pericytic recruitment (PDGFB). In addition, bioinformatics-based analysis of the differentially expressed genes has shown that the most significantly enriched functional groups included development, cell movement, cancer, and embryonic development. Finally, the investigation of pericyte/mesenchymal stem cells markers via immunostaining of human melanoma samples revealed expression of PDGFRB, NG2 and CD146 by angiotropic melanoma cells. Taken together, these preliminary data are supportive of the “pericytic mimicry” by angiotropic melanoma cells, and suggest that the interaction between melanoma cells and the abluminal vascular surface induce differential expression of genes linked to cancer migration and embryonic/stem cell properties.