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Lab Invest. 1996 Jul;75(1):55-66.

Expression of type VI collagen in uveal melanoma: its role in pattern formation and tumor progression.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.


Choroidal and ciliary body melanomas disseminate exclusively by a hematogenous route because there are no lymphatics inside the eye. Although angiogenesis is an absolute precondition for metastasis in this tumor system, not all morphologic expressions of tumor angiogenesis are associated with metastasis from choroidal and ciliary body melanomas. Specifically, the remodeling of the microcirculation to form vascular networks is very strongly associated with metastasis. Type VI collagen is upregulated in tissue remodeling and the generation of tissue patterns and is either not present in the normal choroid or present at very low levels. This study was designed to investigate the possible expression of type VI collagen in the stroma of choroidal and ciliary body melanomas. Type VI collagen was detected in tissue sections from five primary choroidal melanomas and three melanomas involving the choroid and ciliary body in the subendothelial compartment of the microcirculation and in avascular areas by immunohistochemistry. Melanoma cell lines were established from each of these tumors. Cultured melanoma cells invaded into type I collagen gels and expressed type VI collagen by immunohistochemistry. Using specific primers for human type VI collagen, the expected band size (413 base pairs) was isolated from one of the cell lines by reverse transcriptase PCR. The presence of type VI collagen in the melanoma tumor stroma reflects active remodeling of the uveal extracellular matrix microenvironment by the melanoma cells themselves. Before the formation of the microvasculature, the expression of type VI collagen and of the other matrix components, such as hyaluronan, to which it binds, may erect a scaffold permitting the formation of higher order stromal patterns such as vascular networks. These stromal patterns, which are markers of tumor progression, may be detectable clinically by a specialized form of ultrasonography that detects backscatterers of the same dimension as tissue compartments encircled by vascular loops in networks.

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