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J Mol Histol. 2004 Mar;35(3):309-18.

The role of altered cell-cell communication in melanoma progression.

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The Wistar Institute, 3601 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Under normal homeostasis, melanocyte growth and behaviour is tightly controlled by the surrounding keratinocytes. Keratinocytes regulate melanocyte behaviour through a complex system of paracrine growth factors and cell-cell adhesion molecules. Pathological changes, leading to development of malignant melanoma, upset this delicate homeostatic balance and can lead to altered expression of cell-cell adhesion and cell-cell communication molecules. In particular, there is a switch from the E-cadherin-mediated keratinocyte-melanocyte partnership to the N-cadherin-mediated melanoma-melanoma and melanoma-fibroblast interaction. Other changes include the alteration in the gap junctions formed between the melanocyte and keratinocyte. Changes in the connexin expression, in particular the loss of connexin 43, may result in a reduction or a loss of gap junctional activity, which is thought to contribute towards tumour progression. In the current review we describe the alterations in cell-cell adhesion and communication associated with melanoma development and progression, and discuss how a greater understanding of these processes may aid the future therapy of this disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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