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Mol Cancer. 2007 Dec 17;6:80.

Human periostin gene expression in normal tissues, tumors and melanoma: evidences for periostin production by both stromal and melanoma cells.

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Cellular Genetics Unit, de Duve Institute, Catholic University of Louvain, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium.



Recently, periostin (POSTN), a gene encoding a protein with similarity to the fasciclin family and involved in cell survival and angiogenesis, has emerged as a promising marker for tumor progression in various types of human cancers. There is some controversy regarding both POSTN expression levels and the nature of periostin-producing cells within tumors. In this study, we used quantitative RT-PCR to assess periostin gene expression in normal tissues, primary cell cultures, tumor tissues and tumor cell lines.


Periostin expression levels are highly variable in both normal tissues and tumors and strong POSTN overexpression is mostly detected in tumors from pancreas and liver. POSTN is not expressed in blood cancers. In melanoma samples, average periostin expression is not increased in primary tumors whereas POSTN overexpression was detected in about 60% of melanoma metastatic tumors in the liver or lymph nodes. Identification of the cellular source of periostin production in melanoma metastases -cancer cells or stroma- was assessed by comparing periostin expression in 23 newly-established melanoma cell lines and matched tumors. In contrast to the reduction by more than 99% of COL6A3 stromal marker mRNA in all cell lines, significant POSTN transcription was maintained in some melanoma cell lines, suggesting that both stromal cells and melanoma cells express periostin. The high level of periostin expression in primary cultures of skin fibroblasts suggests that fibroblasts may contribute for a large part to periostin production in melanoma-associated stroma. On the other hand, periostin expression in melanoma cells is probably acquired during the tumorigenic process as 1) normal melanocytes do not express POSTN and 2) melanoma cells from distinct metastases of the same patient were associated with very different levels of periostin expression.


Our comparative analysis suggests that, although periostin overexpression is clearly detected in some cancers, it is not a general feature of tumors. In melanoma, our study identifies both stromal and melanoma cells as sources of periostin production and correlates POSTN expression levels with increased primary tumor thickness and metastatic process development.

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