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Oncogene. 2008 Nov 27;27(56):7070-82. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.323. Epub 2008 Sep 22.

Oncogene activation in melanocytes links reactive oxygen to multinucleated phenotype and senescence.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Chemistry I, Biocenter, Am Hubland, University of Wurzburg, Wurzburg, Germany.


Contrary to malignant melanoma, nevi are a benign form of melanocytic hyperproliferation. They are frequently observed as precursor lesions of melanoma, but they also feature biochemical markers of senescence. In particular, evidence for oncogene-induced melanocyte senescence as natural means to prevent tumorigenesis has been obtained in nevi with mutated B-Raf(V600E). Here, we demonstrate that strong oncogenic growth factor receptor signalling drives melanocytes into senescence, whereas weaker signals keep them in the proliferative state. Activation of oncogene-induced senescence also produces multinucleated giant cells, a long known histological feature of nevus cells. The protein levels of the senescence mediators, p53 and pRB, and their upstream activators do not correlate with senescence. However, strong oncogene signalling leads to pronounced reactive oxygen stress, and scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS) efficiently prevents the formation of multinucleated cells and senescence. Similarly, expression of oncogenic N-RAS results in ROS generation, DNA damage and the same multinuclear senescent phenotype. Hence, we identified oncogenic signalling-dependent ROS production as critical mediator of the melanocytic multinuclear phenotype and senescence, both of them being hallmarks of human nevus cells.

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