PTEN expression in normal skin, acquired melanocytic nevi, and cutaneous melanoma

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Nov;49(5):865-72. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(03)02473-3.


Background: Although various studies have shown mutations of the tumor suppressor gene, PTEN/MMAC1, in primary, metastatic, and cultured cutaneous melanoma specimens, little is known about the pattern of PTEN protein expression in early melanocytic tumor progression.

Objective: To further investigate the role of PTEN in melanocytic tumor development.

Methods: We assessed the level and distribution of PTEN in normal skin, 39 acquired melanocytic nevi, and 30 primary cutaneous melanomas, including lentigo malignas, by immunostaining.

Results: We found high levels of PTEN expression in cutaneous muscles, nerves, and muscular arteries, and moderate-to-high amounts of PTEN in the epidermis, follicular epithelium, and sebaceous and eccrine glands. PTEN staining in cutaneous lymphatics, dermal and periadnexal adventitial fibroblasts, and chondrocytes were variably absent. Junctional melanocytes and chondrocytes frequently exhibited preferential nuclear staining. We found uniformly strong PTEN expression in the cytoplasm of almost all benign and dysplastic nevi. However, there was some evidence of nuclear PTEN loss even in the benign melanocytic proliferations. In addition, out of 30 primary cutaneous melanomas and lentigo malignas, we detected diffuse expression of PTEN in 11 (37%) tumors, widespread loss of PTEN in 11 (37%) tumors and mixed PTEN expression in 8 (27%) lesions. In the primary cutaneous melanomas, PTEN was largely localized to the cytoplasm.

Conclusions: The presence of PTEN in benign melanocytic tumors and the absence of PTEN in a significant proportion of primary cutaneous melanomas support a role for PTEN loss in the pathogenesis of melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Melanoma / metabolism*
  • Nevus, Pigmented / metabolism*
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / biosynthesis*
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / biosynthesis*


  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • PTEN protein, human