Absence of mutations of the BRAF gene and constitutive activation of extracellular-regulated kinase in malignant melanomas of the uvea

Lab Invest. 2003 Dec;83(12):1771-6. doi: 10.1097/01.lab.0000101732.89463.29.


The v-raf murine sarcoma viral homolog B1 (BRAF) gene, one of the human isoforms of RAF, is activated by Ras, leading to cooperative effects in cells responsive to growth factor signals. Recently, somatic missense mutations of the BRAF gene have been detected in more than 66% of malignant melanomas of the skin. We analyzed 42 malignant melanomas of the uvea, 3 corresponding liver metastases, and 10 cutaneous melanomas for possible BRAF mutations: after microdissection, mutation analysis of BRAF and KRAS was performed. The expression of extracellular-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), an important downstream point of convergence in the Ras-RAF-MEK-Erk pathway, was analyzed immunohistochemically. Interestingly, we failed to detect activating BRAF mutations in uvea melanomas and their corresponding liver metastases. There were no mutations of BRAF in corresponding non-neoplastic uvea specimens, although we detected three BRAF mutations in sporadic cutaneous melanoma that led to a substitution of valine by glutamic acid at position 599 (V599E). KRAS mutations were detected in 1 of 10 cutaneous melanoma but not in uveal or metastatic melanoma. Despite the lack of activating mutations in the BRAF gene, we identified constitutively activated ERK in almost all (86%) uveal melanoma tissues tested but not in corresponding normal retina or uveal cells. Our data indicate that BRAF gene mutations are rare to absent events in uveal melanoma. The finding of activated Erk suggests a causative role for MAPK activation in uveal melanoma independent of activating BRAF or RAS mutations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Melanoma / enzymology
  • Melanoma / genetics*
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / biosynthesis*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / biosynthesis*
  • Mutation*
  • Uveal Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Uveal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Uveal Neoplasms / pathology


  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases