Loss of beta-catenin expression associated with disease progression in malignant melanoma

Br J Dermatol. 2001 Aug;145(2):210-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2001.04336.x.


Background: beta-catenin plays a crucial role in the function of cell adhesion molecules and also participates in growth regulatory signalling pathways that may be involved in malignant transformation.

Objectives: To examine beta-catenin expression in lesions of melanocytic origin for associations with clinicopathological markers of disease progression and for its significance as a predictor of disease recurrence and prognosis.

Methods: beta-catenin expression was examined by immunoperoxidase staining in 50 melanocytic naevi and 91 primary and 50 metastatic melanomas.

Results: beta-catenin was expressed in 96% of melanocytic naevi, in 94% and 65%, respectively, of radial and vertical growth phase primary melanomas, and in 38% of metastatic melanomas. Benign and malignant melanocytic lesions had distinct patterns of beta-catenin localization. Most lesions expressing beta-catenin exhibited cytoplasmic staining; however, over 40% of benign lesions also displayed nuclear staining, which was present only in 10% of primary and 15% of metastatic melanomas. Absent or weak expression of beta-catenin in primary melanomas was associated with several markers of disease progression, including tumour thickness and presence of lymph node metastases. A similar but not statistically significant trend was observed for the association of beta-catenin expression with disease recurrence and prognosis.

Conclusions: These results suggest that loss or downregulation of beta-catenin expression in melanoma cells plays a significant role in progression of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Logistic Models
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Melanoma / metabolism*
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tonsillar Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Tonsillar Neoplasms / secondary
  • Trans-Activators*
  • beta Catenin


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • beta Catenin