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Br J Cancer. 2012 Jan 31;106(3):553-61. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.568. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Differential expression of microRNAs during melanoma progression: miR-200c, miR-205 and miR-211 are downregulated in melanoma and act as tumour suppressors.

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MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, MRC Human Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, UK.



The incidence of malignant melanoma is increasing faster than that for any other cancer. Histological examination of skin excision biopsies remains the standard method for melanoma diagnosis and prognosis. Significant morphological overlap between benign and malignant lesions complicates diagnosis, and tumour thickness is not always an accurate predictor of prognosis.


To identify improved molecular markers to support histological examination, we used microarray analysis of formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded samples from different stages of melanomagenesis to identify differentially expressed microRNAs (miRNAs). Differential expression was validated by qRT-PCR, and functional studies were carried out after transfection of miRNA precursors or inhibitors into melanoma cells to modulate miRNA expression.


In all, 20 miRNAs showed highly significant differential expression between benign naevi and either primary or metastatic melanomas, the majority being downregulated in melanoma, whereas only 2 miRNAs, namely miR-203 and miR-205, were differentially expressed between primary and metastatic melanomas. In functional in vitro assays, overexpression of miR-200c and miR-205 inhibited anchorage-independent colony formation and overexpression of miR-211 inhibited both anchorage-independent colony formation and invasion.


We have identified a series of differentially expressed miRNAs that could be useful as diagnostic or prognostic markers for melanoma and have shown that three miRNAs (namely miR-200c, miR-205 and miR-211) act as tumour suppressors.

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