Nerve growth and expression of receptors for nerve growth factor in tumors of melanocyte origin.

Wistar Institute, Filadelfia, Pennsylvania, United States
Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Impact Factor: 6.37). 06/1991; 96(5):662-5. DOI: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12470585
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Nerve growth factor (NGF) stimulates growth and differentiation of sensory and sympathetic neurons. It is not known what role NGF plays in melanoma development, but nevus and malignant melanoma cells express NGF-receptor (NGF-R). We counted nerve fibers within melanocytic nevi, primary cutaneous melanomas, and cutaneous melanoma metastases using a monoclonal antibody (MoAb) as marker against a 200-kD glycoprotein that is expressed on human nerves. The expression of NGF-R was studied in serial cryostat sections using a MoAb against the NGF-R. Compared to normal skin, increased numbers of nerve fibers were found in 72 melanocytic nevi. In congenital nevi their number significantly increased with age. In 47 primary cutaneous melanomas the number of nerve fibers decreased in proportion to tumor thickness. In 33 cutaneous melanoma metastases no accumulation of nerve fibers was found. NGF-R was not expressed in normal skin melanocytes and in the majority of nevus cells in melanocytic nevi. Considerable numbers of NGF-R-positive nervus cells were found only in some congenital nevi and few acquired nevi with dysplastic features. By contrast, in primary and metastatic melanomas higher expression of NGF-R was observed. The increased number of nerve fibers in melanocytic nevi suggests that neurite-promoting factors are produced in situ. Production of such factors appears to be lost in malignant melanoma cells. The finding of an inverse correlation between an abundance of nerve fibers in NGF-R-poor nevi and a high expression of NGF-R in melanomas that show no evidence of nerve growth suggest a role of NGF and its receptor in malignant melanocytic tumors.

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