Inverse expression of neurotrophins and neurotrophin receptors at the invasion front of human melanoma brain metastases

D. Marchetti, I. E. McCutcheon, M. J. Ross, G. L. Nicolson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Neurotrophins (NT), such as nerve growth factor (NGF), stimulate the growth and differentiation of several neuronal subpopulations in a distinct yet overlapping manner. Brain-metastatic human melanoma cells overexpress p75(NTR), the low-affinity neurotrophin receptor, and treatment of brain-metastatic cells with NGF stimulates extracellular matrix invasion and production of degradative enzymes in relation to the cellular expression of p75(NTR). Although human melanoma cells express high affinity neurotrophin receptors, such as TrkC (the putative receptor for NT-3), they do not express TrkA, the high-affinity NGF receptor. Using digoxigenin-labeled sense/antisense riboprobes against human p75(NTR) and NGF for in situ hybridization, we determined whether the expression of p75(NTR) and NGF mRNAs are related to brain metastasis of human melanoma. We detected p75(NTR) mRNA at the invasion front of human melanoma brain metastases, whereas p75(NTR) expression was not found in adjacent tissues. In contrast, human NGF mRNA levels were increased in tissues surrounding the melanoma lesions, supporting the notion that NGF and NT are important in determining melanoma brainmetastatic microenvironment. Using antibodies specific to p75(NTR), TrkC, NGF and related NT we found high but heterogeneous levels of p75(NTR) and TrkC expression in malignant melanomas metastatic to the brain. Lower levels of expression were found in primary melanomas or in metastatic melanomas to sites other than brain. Additionally, we found elevated levels of synthesis of NGF and NT-3 but not brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) or NT-4/5 in the brain tissues surrounding melanoma lesions. These studies support a role for NT and their receptors in the progression of melanomas to the brain-metastatic phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995


  • TrkC
  • brain-metastatic melanoma
  • invasion front
  • nerve growth factor
  • neurotrophin-3
  • neurotrophins
  • p75 neurotrophin receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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