Spatially Resolved Transcriptomics Enables Dissection of Genetic Heterogeneity in Stage III Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma

Cancer Res. 2018 Oct 15;78(20):5970-5979. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-0747. Epub 2018 Aug 28.


Cutaneous malignant melanoma (melanoma) is characterized by a high mutational load, extensive intertumoral and intratumoral genetic heterogeneity, and complex tumor microenvironment (TME) interactions. Further insights into the mechanisms underlying melanoma are crucial for understanding tumor progression and responses to treatment. Here we adapted the technology of spatial transcriptomics (ST) to melanoma lymph node biopsies and successfully sequenced the transcriptomes of over 2,200 tissue domains. Deconvolution combined with traditional approaches for dimensional reduction of transcriptome-wide data enabled us to both visualize the transcriptional landscape within the tissue and identify gene expression profiles linked to specific histologic entities. Our unsupervised analysis revealed a complex spatial intratumoral composition of melanoma metastases that was not evident through morphologic annotation. Each biopsy showed distinct gene expression profiles and included examples of the coexistence of multiple melanoma signatures within a single tumor region as well as shared profiles for lymphoid tissue characterized according to their spatial location and gene expression profiles. The lymphoid area in close proximity to the tumor region displayed a specific expression pattern, which may reflect the TME, a key component to fully understanding tumor progression. In conclusion, using the ST technology to generate gene expression profiles reveals a detailed landscape of melanoma metastases. This should inspire researchers to integrate spatial information into analyses aiming to identify the factors underlying tumor progression and therapy outcome.Significance: Applying ST technology to gene expression profiling in melanoma lymph node metastases reveals a complex transcriptional landscape in a spatial context, which is essential for understanding the multiple components of tumor progression and therapy outcome. Cancer Res; 78(20); 5970-9. ©2018 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Gene Library
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Melanoma / genetics*
  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • RNA / analysis
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptome*
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • RNA