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Cancer Res. 2011 Feb 15;71(4):1474-85. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-1660. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

VEGFR-1 expressed by malignant melanoma-initiating cells is required for tumor growth.

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  • 1Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Melanoma growth is driven by malignant melanoma-initiating cells (MMIC) identified by expression of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) member ABCB5. ABCB5(+) melanoma subpopulations have been shown to overexpress the vasculogenic differentiation markers CD144 (VE-cadherin) and TIE1 and are associated with CD31(-) vasculogenic mimicry (VM), an established biomarker associated with increased patient mortality. Here we identify a critical role for VEGFR-1 signaling in ABCB5(+) MMIC-dependent VM and tumor growth. Global gene expression analyses, validated by mRNA and protein determinations, revealed preferential expression of VEGFR-1 on ABCB5(+) tumor cells purified from clinical melanomas and established melanoma lines. In vitro, VEGF induced the expression of CD144 in ABCB5(+) subpopulations that constitutively expressed VEGFR-1 but not in ABCB5(-) bulk populations that were predominantly VEGFR-1(-). In vivo, melanoma-specific shRNA-mediated knockdown of VEGFR-1 blocked the development of ABCB5(+) VM morphology and inhibited ABCB5(+) VM-associated production of the secreted melanoma mitogen laminin. Moreover, melanoma-specific VEGFR-1 knockdown markedly inhibited tumor growth (by > 90%). Our results show that VEGFR-1 function in MMIC regulates VM and associated laminin production and show that this function represents one mechanism through which MMICs promote tumor growth.

©2011 AACR.

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