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Cancer Res. 2005 Jan 15;65(2):448-56.

Bone morphogenic proteins are overexpressed in malignant melanoma and promote cell invasion and migration.

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University of Regensburg Medical School, Regensburg, Germany.


Malignant melanoma cells are known to have altered expression of growth factors compared with normal human melanocytes. These changes probably favor tumor growth and progression and influence the tumor environment. The induction of transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1), TGF-beta2, and TGF-beta3 expression in malignant melanoma has been reported before, whereas the expression of related bone morphogenic protein (BMP) molecules has not been analyzed in melanomas until now. Here, we show that BMP4 and BMP7 are up-regulated in nine melanoma cell lines, whereas BMP2 is overexpressed in only two of the analyzed cell lines. Immunohistochemistry of primary and metastatic melanoma also shows increased BMP4 and BMP7 expression compared with nevi. Promoter studies reveal that expression is controlled at the transcriptional level. The transcription factor Ets-1 was identified as a positive regulator for BMP4 expression. In order to determine the functional relevance of BMP expression in malignant melanoma, chordin-expressing cell clones and antisense BMP4 cell clones were generated. The clones in which BMP4 activity and expression are reduced show no changes in proliferation or in attachment-independent growth when compared with controls. However, a strong reduction of migratory and invasive properties was observed in these cells, suggesting that BMP4 promotes melanoma cell invasion and migration and therefore has an important role in the progression of malignant melanoma.

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