High levels of expression of p27KIP1 and cyclin E in invasive primary malignant melanomas

J Invest Dermatol. 1999 Dec;113(6):1039-46. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.1999.00812.x.


Cancer cells have abnormal cell cycle regulation which favors accelerated proliferation, chromosomal instability, and resistance to the senescence response. Although the p16INK4a locus is the most prominent susceptibility locus for familial melanomas, the low frequency of p16 mutations in sporadic melanomas suggests additional alterations in other cell cycle regulatory genes. Here we used primary melanoma tumors to reveal early cell cycle alterations that could be masked in advanced metastatic lesions due to their inherently high genetic instability. Unexpectedly, the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p27KIP1 and/or p21Waf-1/SDI-1 were found to be expressed in 13 of 18 (72%) of the primary melanomas with a Breslow thickness greater than 0.076 mm. In general, p27 and/or p21 staining in the primary tumors correlated with low Ki-67 index. Importantly, most of the p21- and p27-positive tumors expressed high levels of cyclin D1 and cyclin E. In proliferating cells p27 is predominantly associated with cyclin D-CDK4 complexes, but does not inhibit the kinase activity, whereas in quiescent cells p27 is found associated with inactive CDK2 complexes. p27 was also expressed at high levels in proliferating primary melanomas in culture, and found to be associated with active cyclin E-CDK2 complexes containing high levels of cyclin E. It is thus likely that accumulation of cyclin E overcomes the potent inhibitory activity of p27 and p21 in CDK2 complexes. Of the primary melanomas with no indication of invasiveness, only three of 15 (20%) were positive for p27 and/or p21. We propose that high levels of p27 and p21 may confer upon melanoma tumors their characteristic resistance to conventional therapies. In turn, high levels of cyclins E and D1 may contribute to unlimited proliferation in primary melanomas that express the tumor suppressor p16INK4. J Invest Dermatol 113:1039-1046 1999

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • CDC2-CDC28 Kinases*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins*
  • Cyclin D1 / analysis
  • Cyclin E / analysis*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 2
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Melanoma / chemistry*
  • Microfilament Proteins / analysis
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / analysis*
  • Muscle Proteins*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / analysis
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cyclin E
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Tagln protein, mouse
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Cyclin D1
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • CDC2-CDC28 Kinases
  • CDK2 protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 2
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases