Loss of EphB6 expression in metastatic melanoma

Int J Oncol. 2003 Dec;23(6):1553-9.


Overexpression of various members of the Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ephrin ligands has been frequently reported in cancer. In contrast, a loss of EphB6 gene expression has been correlated with a poor prognosis in human neuroblastoma, suggesting a distinct role for this receptor compared to other family members. More recently, an important role of EphB6 signalling in T-cells has been described, suggesting possibly deleterious immunologic effects of a loss of EphB6 in cancer progression. We investigated the expression of EphB6 in melanocytic tumors. EphB6 mRNA of 22 microdissected tissues (7 benign nevi, 7 melanomas, 8 metastases) and 10 different cell lines (normal melanocytes, non-metastatic/metastatic melanoma cell lines) were measured by quantitative real-time RT-PCR. For visualization of EphB6 protein expression, immunohistochemistry of 32 melanocytic lesions were performed. On the mRNA level, the benign nevi revealed the highest EphB6 expression (mean = 1.43), while melanomas (mean = 0.63) and metastases (mean = 0.08; p=0.001) displayed a progressive and significant reduction of EphB6 expression. Accordingly, established melanoma cell lines with metastatic potential showed low EphB6 expression in comparison to normal melanocytes and to most of the melanoma cell lines. Immunohistochemistry revealed homogeneous staining in common nevi, whereas in malignant melanomas and metastases a heterogeneously positive to completely negative EphB6 staining was observed. Remarkably, Spitz nevi stained similarly to ordinary melanocytic nevi. Taken together, we show that melanoma progression to metastatic disease is associated with a significant reduction of EphB6 gene expression which may have considerable consequences for the prognosis of malignant melanoma patients and possible gene-therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Child
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Melanoma / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Nevus / metabolism
  • Prognosis
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor, EphB6 / biosynthesis*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Ligands
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, EphB6
  • RNA