[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In 1999, The American Journal of Pathology published an article entitled "Vascular Channel Formation by Human Melanoma Cells in Vivo and in Vitro: Vasculogenic Mimicry," by Maniotis and colleagues, which ignited a spirited debate for several years and earned distinction as a citation classic. Tumor cell vasculogenic mimicry (VM) refers to the plasticity of aggressive cancer cells forming de novo vascular networks, which thereby contribute to perfusion of rapidly growing tumors, transporting fluid from leaky vessels, and/or connecting with the constitutional endothelial-lined vasculature. The tumor cells capable of VM share a plastic, transendothelial phenotype, which may be induced by hypoxia. Since VM was introduced as a novel paradigm for melanoma tumor perfusion, many studies have contributed new findings illuminating the underlying molecular pathways supporting VM in a variety of tumors, including carcinomas, sarcomas, glioblastomas, astrocytomas, and melanomas. Facilitating the functional plasticity of tumor cell VM are key proteins associated with vascular, stem cell, and hypoxia-related signaling pathways, each deserving serious consideration as potential therapeutic targets and diagnostic indicators of the aggressive, metastatic phenotype.
American Journal Of Pathology 08/2012; 181(4):1115-25. · 4.52 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The greatest health threat from malignant melanoma is death due to metastatic disease. Consequently, the identification of markers predictive of metastatic disease is essential for identifying new therapeutic targets. EphA2, a protein tyrosine kinase receptor commonly expressed in epithelial cells, has been found to be overexpressed and constitutively active in melanoma tumor cells having a metastatic phenotype as characterized by increased invasion, proliferation and vasculogenic mimicry (VM). Based on this observation, we hypothesized that increased expression of EphA2 by melanoma tumor cells could promote these characteristics of a metastatic phenotype in addition to promoting tumorigenicity as a whole. We analyzed a panel of human melanoma tumor cell lines derived from patient tissues classified as primary (either radial growth phase or vertical growth phase) and/or metastatic for the expression of EphA2 and found a correlation between increased EphA2 expression and metastatic potential. Experiments using the most metastatic of the human melanoma cell lines demonstrated that downregulation of EphA2 results in a significant decrease in invasion, proliferation, clonogenicity and VM in vitro, in addition to suppressed tumorigenicity in an orthotopic mouse model. Lastly, utilization of a human phospho-kinase array revealed increased phosphorylation of several different protein kinases involved in mediating various aspects of cellular proliferation. To the best of our knowledge these results provide the first direct in vivo evidence demonstrating a role for EphA2 in promoting melanoma tumorigenicity and suggest EphA2 as a significant molecular target for the therapeutic intervention of malignant melanoma.
Cancer biology & therapy 03/2009; 8(3):279-88. · 3.29 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During embryogenesis, the primordial microcirculation is formed through a process known as vasculogenesis. The term "vasculogenic mimicry" has been used to describe the manner in which highly aggressive, but not poorly aggressive melanoma tumor cells express endothelial and epithelial markers and form vasculogenic-like networks similar to embryonic vasculogenesis. Vasculogenic mimicry is one example of the remarkable plasticity demonstrated by aggressive melanoma cells and suggests that these cells have acquired an embryonic-like phenotype. Since the initial discovery of tumor cell vasculogenic mimicry by our laboratory, we have been focusing on understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate this process. This review will highlight recent findings identifying key signal transduction events that regulate melanoma vasculogenic mimicry and their similarity to the signal transduction events responsible for promoting embryonic vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. Specifically, this review will focus on the role of the Eph receptors and ligands in embryonic vasculogenesis, angiogenesis, and vasculogenic mimicry.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bidirectional cellular communication is integral to both cancer progression and embryological development. In addition, aggressive tumor cells are phenotypically plastic, sharing many properties with embryonic cells. Owing to the similarities between these two types of cells, the developing zebrafish can be used as a biosensor for tumor-derived signals. Using this system, we show that aggressive melanoma cells secrete Nodal (a potent embryonic morphogen) and consequently can induce ectopic formation of the embryonic axis. We further show that Nodal is present in human metastatic tumors, but not in normal skin, and thus may be involved in melanoma pathogenesis. Inhibition of Nodal signaling reduces melanoma cell invasiveness, colony formation and tumorigenicity. Nodal inhibition also promotes the reversion of melanoma cells toward a melanocytic phenotype. These data suggest that Nodal signaling has a key role in melanoma cell plasticity and tumorigenicity, thereby providing a previously unknown molecular target for regulating tumor progression.
Nature Medicine 09/2006; 12(8):925-32. · 22.86 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) mediates myriad cellular functions and has been found to be overexpressed in numerous human cancers. We recently explored the role of FAK in promoting the aggressive phenotype of melanoma cells, characterized by increased invasion, migration, and vasculogenic mimicry (VM) potential. We found FAK to be phosphorylated on its key tyrosine residues (397 and 576) in aggressive melanoma cells cultured on a three-dimensional type 1 collagen matrix in vitro, as well as in radial and vertical growth phase melanomas in situ. Furthermore, expressing FAK-related non-kinase (FRNK) in melanoma cells directly resulted in the inhibition of the aggressive phenotype, as demonstrated by decreased invasion, migration and VM potential, in part by blocking an Erk1/2 mediated signaling pathway. Additional data indicated that increased FAK activity may promote cellular proliferation and anchorage independent growth of aggressive melanoma. Together these observations implicate FAK as a promoter of the aggressive melanoma phenotype, thereby identifying a rational target for therapeutic intervention of malignant melanoma.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The formation of matrix-rich, vasculogenic-like networks, termed vasculogenic mimicry (VM), is a unique process characteristic of highly aggressive melanoma cells found to express genes previously thought to be exclusively associated with endothelial and epithelial cells. This study contributes new observations demonstrating that VE-cadherin can regulate the expression of EphA2 at the cell membrane by mediating its ability to become phosphorylated through interactions with its membrane bound ligand, ephrin-A1. VE-cadherin and EphA2 were also found to be colocalized in cell-cell adhesion junctions, both in vitro and in vivo. Immunoprecipitation studies revealed that EphA2 and VE-cadherin could interact, directly and/or indirectly, during VM. Furthermore, there was no change in the colocalization of EphA2 and VE-cadherin at cell-cell adhesion sites when EphA2 was phosphorylated on tyrosine residues. Although transient knockout of EphA2 expression did not alter VE-cadherin localization, transient knockout of VE-cadherin expression resulted in the reorganization of EphA2 on the cells' surface, an accumulation of EphA2 in the cytoplasm, and subsequent dephosphorylation of EphA2. Collectively, these results suggest that VE-cadherin and EphA2 act in a coordinated manner as a key regulatory element in the process of melanoma VM and illuminate a novel signaling pathway that could be potentially exploited for therapeutic intervention.
Cancer biology & therapy 03/2006; 5(2):228-33. · 3.29 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have previously shown that lysyl oxidase (LOX) mRNA is up-regulated in invasive breast cancer cells and that catalytically active LOX facilitates in vitro cell invasion. Here we validate our in vitro studies by showing that LOX expression is up-regulated in distant metastatic breast cancer tissues compared with primary cancer tissues. To elucidate the mechanism by which LOX facilitates cell invasion, we show that catalytically active LOX regulates in vitro motility/migration and cell-matrix adhesion formation. Treatment of the invasive breast cancer cell lines, Hs578T and MDA-MB-231, with beta-aminopropionitrile (betaAPN), an irreversible inhibitor of LOX catalytic activity, leads to a significant decrease in cell motility/migration and adhesion formation. Conversely, poorly invasive MCF-7 cells expressing LOX (MCF-7/LOX32-His) showed an increase in migration and adhesion that was reversible with the addition of betaAPN. Moreover, a decrease in activated focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and Src kinase, key proteins involved in adhesion complex turnover, was observed when invasive breast cancer cells were treated with betaAPN. Additionally, FAK and Src activation was increased in MCF-7/LOX32-His cells, which was reversible on betaAPN treatment. Hydrogen peroxide was produced as a by-product of LOX activity and the removal of hydrogen peroxide by catalase treatment in invasive breast cancer cells led to a dose-dependent loss in Src activation. These results suggest that LOX facilitates migration and cell-matrix adhesion formation in invasive breast cancer cells through a hydrogen peroxide-mediated mechanism involving the FAK/Src signaling pathway. These data show the need to target LOX for treatment of aggressive breast cancer.
Cancer Research 01/2006; 65(24):11429-36. · 8.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The molecular signature of aggressive cutaneous and uveal melanoma cells is consistent with an undifferentiated cell with
a genetic profile similar to that of embryonic cells. The associated plastic phenotype may explain how aggressive melanoma
cells can mimic endothelial cells, participate in neovascularization of tissues, and form a fluid-conducting meshwork through
a process called vasculogenic mimicry. Although elucidation of the biological steps of melanoma vasculogenic mimicry should lead to improved diagnostic and therapeutic
strategies, the clinical management of cutaneous and uveal melanoma (as well as many other types of cancers), would benefit
from the identification of valid predictors of disease progression and metastatic potential. In this regard, recent studies
aimed at characterizing the molecular signature of melanoma tumor cells has resulted in a classification scheme for malignant
cutaneous melanoma, as well as a molecular profile for uveal melanoma, which may contribute to improving the diagnosis and
treatment of this and possibly other cancers.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Malignant melanoma continues to remain a significant health threat, with death often occurring as a result of metastasis. The metastatic phenotype typically is characterized by augmented tumor cell invasion and migration in addition to tumor cell plasticity as shown by vasculogenic mimicry. Therefore, understanding the molecular mechanisms that promote an aggressive phenotype is essential to predicting the likelihood of metastasis at a stage when intervention may be possible. This study focuses on the role of focal adhesion kinase (FAK), a cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase important for many cellular processes, including cell survival, invasion, and migration. We found FAK to be phosphorylated on its key tyrosine residues, Tyr397 and Tyr576, in only aggressive uveal and cutaneous melanoma cells, which correlates with their increased invasion, migration, and vasculogenic mimicry plasticity. Additionally, we confirmed the presence of FAK phosphorylated on Tyr397 and Tyr576 in both cutaneous and uveal melanoma tumors in situ. Examination of a functional role for FAK in aggressive melanoma revealed that disruption of FAK-mediated signal transduction pathways, through the expression of FAK-related nonkinase (FRNK), results in a decrease in melanoma cell invasion, migration, and inhibition of vasculogenic mimicry. Moreover, we found that FRNK expression resulted in a down-regulation of Erk1/2 phosphorylation resulting in a decrease in urokinase activity. Collectively, these data suggest a new mechanism involved in promoting the aggressive melanoma phenotype through FAK-mediated signal transduction pathways, thus providing new insights into possible therapeutic intervention strategies.
Cancer Research 12/2005; 65(21):9851-60. · 8.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Endothelial cells involved in vasculogenesis and angiogenesis are key targets in cancer therapy. Recent evidence suggests that tumor cells can express some genes typically expressed by endothelial cells and form extracellular matrix-rich tubular networks, phenomena known as vasculogenic mimicry. We examined the effects of three angiogenesis inhibitors (i.e., anginex, TNP-470, and endostatin) on vasculogenic mimicry in human melanoma MUM-2B and C8161 cells and compared them with their effects in human endothelial HMEC-1 and HUVEC cells. Anginex, TNP-470, and endostatin markedly inhibited vascular cord and tube formation by HMEC-1 and HUVEC cells in vitro, whereas tubular network formation by MUM-2B and C8161 cells was relatively unaffected. Endothelial cells expressed higher mRNA and protein levels for two putative endostatin receptors, alpha5 integrin and heparin sulfate proteoglycan 2, than melanoma cells, suggesting a mechanistic basis for the differential response of the two cell types to angiogenesis inhibitors. These findings may contribute to the development of new antivascular therapeutic agents that target both angiogenesis and tumor cell vasculogenic mimicry.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Vasculogenic mimicry (VM) describes the unique ability of highly aggressive melanoma tumor cells to express endothelial cell-associated genes (such as EphA2 and VE-cadherin) and form vasculogenic-like networks when cultured on a three-dimensional matrix. VM has been described in several types of aggressive tumors, including melanoma, prostate, breast, and ovarian carcinomas. However, the molecular underpinnings of this phenomenon remain somewhat elusive. In this study, we examined key molecular mechanisms underlying VM in aggressive human cutaneous and uveal melanoma. The data reveal that phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) is an important regulator of VM, specifically affecting membrane type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) and matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) activity, critical in the formation of vasculogenic-like networks. Using specific inhibitors of PI3K, melanoma VM was abrogated coincident with decreased MMP-2 and MT1-MMP activity. Furthermore, inhibition of PI3K blocked the cleavage of laminin 5 gamma 2 chain, resulting in decreased levels of the gamma 2' and gamma 2x promigratory fragments. Collectively, these results indicate that PI3K is an important regulator of melanoma VM directly affecting the cooperative interactions of MMP-2, MT1-MMP, and laminin 5 gamma 2 chain and, thus, the remodeling of the tumor cell microenvironment. PI3K may represent an excellent target for therapeutic intervention of a novel signaling cascade underlying VM.
Cancer Research 09/2003; 63(16):4757-62. · 8.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The gene-expression profile of aggressive cutaneous and uveal melanoma cells resembles that of an undifferentiated, embryonic-like cell. The plasticity of certain types of cancer cell could explain their ability to mimic the activities of endothelial cells and to participate in processes such as neovascularization and the formation of a fluid-conducting, matrix-rich meshwork. This ability has been termed 'vasculogenic mimicry'. How does vasculogenic mimicry contribute to tumour progression, and can it be targeted by therapeutic agents?
Nature reviews. Cancer 07/2003; 3(6):411-21. · 35.00 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The molecular analysis of tumors, such as melanoma, has benefited significantly from microarray technology that can facilitate the classification of tumors based on the differential expression of genes. The data summarized in this review describe the molecular profile of aggressive cutaneous and uveal melanoma cells as that of multiple phenotypes similar to a pluripotent, embryonic-like stem cell. A noteworthy example of the plasticity of the aggressive melanoma cell phenotype is demonstrated by the ability of these tumor cells to engage in vasculogenic mimicry and neovascularization. A review of the current evidence demonstrating important cellular and molecular determinants of melanoma vasculogenic mimicry is presented. In addition, novel signaling pathways are discussed, involving VE-cadherin, EphA2, FAK, and PI 3-kinase, which promote cell migration, invasion, and matrix remodeling. The observations summarized in this review describe some of the key molecular events that regulate the process of melanoma vasculogenic mimicry and identify new signal transduction pathways that can serve as putative targets for therapeutic intervention.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cutaneous and uveal melanoma provide excellent model systems for studying the processes of tumor progression, tumor cell invasion, metastasis and immunosurveillance. Studies that incorporate both of these models can provide novel insights into how tumor cells of common embryonic origin may respond to different environments and conditions, since cutaneous melanoma cells appear to metastasize by non-hematogenous (lymphatic) routes while uveal melanoma cells metastasize primarily through the blood. Microarray gene chip analyses have shown that aggressive cutaneous and uveal melanoma cells coexpress multiple phenotype-specific genes, which include genes previously thought specific to other cell types. These observations suggested that aggressive melanoma cells may undergo a genetic reversion to a pluripotent, embryonic-like (plastic) phenotype. Vasculogenic mimicry represents a remarkable example of tumor cell plasticity and is characterized by the unusual ability of aggressive human melanoma tumor cells to form tubular structures and patterned networks in three-dimensional culture reminiscent of embryonic vasculogenesis. Furthermore, extracellular matrices preconditioned by aggressive melanoma cells induce the aggressive, vasculogenic mimicry phenotype in poorly aggressive cells. Microarray analyses also supported previous observations that human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules are up-regulated and HLA class II molecules are down-regulated in aggressive uveal melanoma cells, which could facilitate an escape from immunosurveillance by natural killer cell activity during hematogenous metastasis. However, the up-regulation of HLA class I and down-regulation of HLA class II on the C8161 aggressive cutaneous melanoma cells compared to the poorly aggressive cutaneous melanoma cells reported in this review is contrary to previously published results for cutaneous melanoma and suggest that the aggressive cutaneous melanoma cell line could have been derived from a metastatic foci developed from a hematogenous (not lymphatic) metastasis. These observations offer unique perspectives regarding the plastic nature of aggressive melanoma cells that will continue to challenge our current thinking of identifying and targeting tumor cells that may masquerade as other cell types, yet may provide new prognostic markers for tumor detection, clinical diagnosis and novel therapeutic intervention strategies.
Clinical and Applied Immunology Reviews 01/2003; 3(6):263-276.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cutaneous melanoma has been increasing at an alarming rate over the past two decades, however, there are no acceptable histopathological markers that classify various stages of melanoma progression. Recently, the molecular analysis of cancer has contributed significantly to our understanding of the cellular and molecular underpinnings of tumor progression. The data summarized in this review describe the molecular signature of aggressive cutaneous melanoma cells as that of multiple phenotypes which may be similar to a pluripotent, embryonic-like phenotype. An example of the plasticity of this phenotype is demonstrated by the ability of aggressive melanoma cells to engage in vasculogenic mimicry and neovascularization. A review of the current data demonstrating important cellular and molecular determinants of human melanoma vasculogenic mimicry is presented. These findings should stimulate additional studies to address the biological relevance of the multiple molecular phenotypes expressed by aggressive melanoma cells which may lead to the development of new diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for clinical intervention.
Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 11/2002; 44(1):17-27. · 4.64 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We recently have introduced the term vasculogenic mimicry to describe the unique ability of aggressive melanoma tumor cells to form tubular structures and patterned networks in three-dimensional culture, which "mimics" embryonic vasculogenic networks formed by differentiating endothelial cells. In the current study, we address the biological significance of several endothelial-associated molecules (revealed by microarray analysis) with respect to expression and function in highly aggressive and poorly aggressive human cutaneous melanoma cell lines (established from the same patient). In a comparative analysis, CD31 was not expressed by any of the melanoma cell lines, whereas TIE-1 (tyrosine kinase with Ig and epidermal growth factor homology domains-1) was strongly expressed in the highly aggressive tumor cells with a low level of expression in one of the poorly aggressive cell lines. Vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin was exclusively expressed by highly aggressive melanoma cells and was undetectable in the poorly aggressive tumor cells, suggesting the possibility of a vasculogenic switch. Down-regulation of VE-cadherin expression in the aggressive melanoma cells abrogated their ability to form vasculogenic networks and directly tested the hypothesis that VE-cadherin is critical in melanoma vasculogenic mimicry. These results highlight the plasticity of aggressive melanoma cells and call into question their possible genetic reversion to an embryonic phenotype. This finding could pose a significant clinical challenge in targeting tumor cells that may masquerade as circulating endothelial cells or other embryonic-like stem cells.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2001; 98(14):8018-23. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During embryogenesis, blood vessels are formed initially by the process of vasculogenesis, the in situ differentiation of mesenchymal cells into endothelial cells, which form a primitive, patterned vasculogenic network. This is followed by angiogenesis, the sprouting of new vessels from pre- existing vasculature, to yield a more refined microcirculation. However, we and our collaborators have recently described a process termed "vas- culogenic mimicry," which consists of the formation of patterned, tubular networks by aggressive melanoma tumor cells (in three-dimensional cul- tures in vitro), that mimics endothelial-formed vasculogenic networks and correlates with poor clinical prognosis in patients. Previous microarray analysis from our laboratory comparing the highly aggressive versus the poorly aggressive melanoma cells revealed a significant increased expres- sion of tyrosine kinases associated with the aggressive melanoma pheno- type. Because of the important role of protein tyrosine kinases in phos- phorylating various signal transduction proteins that are critical for many cellular processes (e.g., cell adhesion, migration, and invasion), we exam- ined whether protein tyrosine kinases are involved in melanoma vasculo- genic mimicry. Immunofluorescence analysis of aggressive melanoma cells forming tubular networks in vitro showed that tyrosine phosphorylation activity colocalized specifically within areas of tubular network formation. A phosphotyrosine profile of the aggressive melanoma cells capable of forming tubular networks indicated differences in tyrosine phosphoryl- ated proteins compared with the poorly aggressive melanoma cells (inca- pable of forming tubular networks). Most notably, we identified epithelial cell kinase (EphA2) as being one receptor tyrosine kinase expressed and phosphorylated exclusively in the aggressive metastatic melanoma cells. Furthermore, general inhibitors of protein tyrosine kinases hindered tube formation, and transient knockout of EphA2 abrogated the ability of tumor cells to form tubular structures. These results suggest that protein tyrosine kinases, particularly EphA2, are involved in the formation of tubular networks by aggressive melanoma tumor cells in vitro, which may represent a novel therapeutic target for further clinical investigation.
Cancer Research 05/2001; 61(8). · 8.65 Impact Factor