Background/aims: Posterior uveal melanoma is the most common intraocular tumour in adults, responsible for the death of approximately 35% of patients. Hepatic metastases are most frequent, and once diagnosed survival is usually less than 1 year. The beta1 family of integrins, alphavbeta3 and MMP-2 and MMP-9 have been implicated in the metastasis of several types of tumour. To study their involvement in uveal melanoma we analysed the expression of the beta1 integrins, alphavbeta3, MMP-2, and MMP-9 in 10 primary posterior uveal melanomas, and correlated expression with invasive potential in vitro. Comparable studies were undertaken on cultures of melanocytes.
Methods: Expression of integrins was studied by immunohistochemistry, secretion of MMP-2 and MMP-9 by zymography, and the invasive potential was assessed using a transwell model.
Results: MMP-2 was secreted by all uveal melanomas and seven of 10 secreted MMP-9. Among uveal melanoma, invasion levels of 4-25% were observed and the major integrins expressed were alpha1beta1, alpha2beta1, alpha3beta1, alpha5beta1, and avbeta3. Melanocytes did not express alpha1beta1, alpha4beta1, and alpha6beta1.
Conclusion: The laminin binding alpha6beta1 integrin was not expressed by either melanocytes or tumours with spindle morphology, which are considered to have a better prognosis. It is possible that expression of the alpha6beta1 integrin may prove useful as a prognostic indicator.