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Sci Transl Med. 2013 Sep 11;5(202):202ra123. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005864.

Down-regulation of autophagy-related protein 5 (ATG5) contributes to the pathogenesis of early-stage cutaneous melanoma.

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Institute of Pharmacology, University of Bern, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland.


The role of autophagy in cancer is controversial: Both tumor-suppressing and tumor-promoting functions have been reported. We show that a key regulator of autophagy, autophagy-related protein 5 (ATG5), is often down-regulated in primary melanomas compared to benign nevi, leading to a reduction of basal autophagy as evidenced by a reduced expression of LC3. A follow-up of 158 primary melanoma patients showed that patients with low levels of ATG5 in their tumors had a reduced progression-free survival. In an in vitro model of melanoma tumorigenesis, where the BRAF oncogene was transduced into normal melanocytes, we observed that lowering ATG5 expression promoted proliferation by precluding oncogene-induced senescence. Hence, it appears that down-regulation of ATG5 contributes to tumorigenesis in early-stage cutaneous melanoma, and the expression of ATG5 and LC3 correlates with melanoma diagnosis and prognosis.

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