Background: Proteasomes, nonlysosomal proteolytic structures, are implicated in cell growth and differentiation. An abnormal expression has been described in haematopoietic malignancies and in some solid tumours.
Objectives: To study the plasma proteasome levels in patients with malignant melanoma (MM) using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique, and to compare them with the values obtained in a normal population and in patients with severe psoriasis or chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU).
Methods: Plasma proteasome level was measured using a sandwich ELISA test in normal donors (n = 14), and in patients with stage I/II (n = 13), stage III (n = 6) and stage IV (n = 10) MM, severe psoriasis (n = 13) and CIU (n = 6). Tissue proteasome expression was also detected by immunohistology using a monoclonal antibody in paraffin-embedded samples of normal tissue, psoriasis skin and MM.
Results: In normal donors, mean +/- SEM plasma proteasome concentration was 2138 +/- 221 ng mL(-1). Patients with stages III and IV MM exhibited a significantly higher value (3373 +/- 470 ng mL(-1) and 8931 +/- 1232 ng mL(-1), respectively). Values in patients with stage I/II MM and CIU were not significantly different from those in normal volunteers. Patients with severe psoriasis also exhibited increased values (3398 +/- 374 ng mL(-1)) but to a lesser extent than in patients with stage IV MM. There was a significant correlation of proteasome levels with serum lactate dehydrogenase in the MM group. Tissue expression as demonstrated by immunohistochemistry paralleled these findings. The strongest expression was seen on MM slides and to a lesser extent in psoriasis samples, the weakest expression being observed in normal skin.
Conclusions: Proteasomes are strongly expressed in cutaneous MM; high levels of circulating proteasomes are detected in patients with metastatic MM with a high melanoma burden, and at a lesser extent in psoriatic patients, which suggests proteasomes represent a marker more of nonspecific inflammation than of early cancer.