The metastatic microenvironment: Brain-derived soluble factors alter the malignant phenotype of cutaneous and brain-metastasizing melanoma cells

Int J Cancer. 2012 Dec 1;131(11):2509-18. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27552. Epub 2012 Apr 12.


The working hypothesis of this study is that the interactions between the brain microenvironment and melanoma cells determine metastasis formation at this organ site. The aim of the study was to evaluate the contribution of such interactions to the formation of brain metastasis in nude mice xenografted with human melanoma cells. An insight into these interactions is an essential prerequisite for the development of effective targeted therapy for melanoma brain metastasis. We assessed the effects of soluble factors present in supernatants of short-term cultures of normal mouse brain (referred here after as brain-derived soluble factors) on several characteristics linked to melanoma brain metastasis. It was found that brain-derived soluble factors affect differentially cutaneous and brain-metastasizing melanoma cells variants in vitro. Such factors enhanced the viability of cutaneous melanoma cells but caused an S phase arrest followed by apoptosis of brain-metastasizing cells. Brain-derived soluble factors enhanced migration of melanoma cells metastasizing to the brain, but did not affect the migration of the cutaneous variants. Such factors upregulated the expression of the chemokine receptor CCR4 in both cutaneous and brain-metastasizing melanoma cells. It is not unlikely that CCR4 ligands expressed in the brain interact with the CCR4-expressing melanoma cells thereby directing them to the brain. Brain-derived soluble factors enhanced the transmigration, across human brain endothelial cells of cutaneous but not of brain-metastasizing melanoma variants. This activity could promote the capacity of the cutaneous cells to metastasize to the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / genetics
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / genetics
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Phenotype
  • Receptors, CCR3 / genetics
  • Receptors, CCR3 / metabolism
  • Receptors, CCR4 / genetics
  • Receptors, CCR4 / metabolism
  • S Phase / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / secondary
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Microenvironment*
  • Up-Regulation / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CCR3 protein, human
  • CCR4 protein, human
  • Receptors, CCR3
  • Receptors, CCR4