Nitric oxide (NO) is synthesized by nitric oxide synthases (NOS) and plays an important role in tumour growth. In this study, inducible NOS (iNOS) expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in 34 melanocytic naevi (13 common melanocytic naevi, six Spitz naevi, and 15 so-called 'dysplastic naevi'), ten cutaneous melanomas in situ, 50 stage I invasive melanomas, and eight subcutaneous metastases of melanoma. In addition, four samples of melanocytic naevi and four samples of invasive melanomas were collected in order to perform western blot and northern blot analysis. By immunohistochemistry, melanocytic naevi never expressed iNOS. Among cases of melanoma in situ, two were negative, seven displayed staining in less than 20% of melanoma cells, and positivity was observed in 21-50% of melanoma cells in only one case. iNOS expression was detected in 46 out of 50 invasive melanomas (92%). Among these cases, 18 showed positivity in less than 20% of melanoma cells, 18 showed positivity in 21-50% of melanoma cells, and ten showed iNOS expression in more than 50% of cells. Statistical analysis revealed a significant difference in iNOS expression between melanocytic naevi and cutaneous melanomas (p<0.001). In addition, iNOS expression was significantly higher in invasive melanomas than in melanomas in situ (p=0.01). Among primary cutaneous melanomas, no significant correlation was found between iNOS expression and histopathological parameters (histotype, level, thickness and presence of regression/inflammatory infiltrate) and disease-specific survival. In subcutaneous melanoma metastases, iNOS expression was diffuse in more than 50% of cells. Statistical analysis revealed that subcutaneous melanoma metastases showed greater iNOS immunoreactivity than invasive melanomas (p=0.02). Molecular analyses confirmed that iNOS mRNA and protein were highly expressed in melanoma samples. In conclusion, iNOS was constantly absent in melanocytic naevi, whereas it was frequently expressed in melanomas, with up-regulation of the enzyme paralleling tumour progression. These data suggest that iNOS may play a role in the malignant transformation of melanocytes and in tumour growth. In addition, iNOS may be useful as an immunohistochemical marker for malignant melanocytic lesions.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.