MicroRNAs as Key Players in Melanoma Cell Resistance to MAPK and Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jun 26;21(12):4544. doi: 10.3390/ijms21124544.


Advances in the use of targeted and immune therapies have revolutionized the clinical management of melanoma patients, prolonging significantly their overall and progression-free survival. However, both targeted and immune therapies suffer limitations due to genetic mutations and epigenetic modifications, which determine a great heterogeneity and phenotypic plasticity of melanoma cells. Acquired resistance of melanoma patients to inhibitors of BRAF (BRAFi) and MEK (MEKi), which block the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, limits their prolonged use. On the other hand, immune checkpoint inhibitors improve the outcomes of patients in only a subset of them and the molecular mechanisms underlying lack of responses are under investigation. There is growing evidence that altered expression levels of microRNAs (miRNA)s induce drug-resistance in tumor cells and that restoring normal expression of dysregulated miRNAs may re-establish drug sensitivity. However, the relationship between specific miRNA signatures and acquired resistance of melanoma to MAPK and immune checkpoint inhibitors is still limited and not fully elucidated. In this review, we provide an updated overview of how miRNAs induce resistance or restore melanoma cell sensitivity to mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitors (MAPKi) as well as on the relationship existing between miRNAs and immune evasion by melanoma cell resistant to MAPKi.

Keywords: melanoma; melanoma resistance to MAPK/MEK inhibitors; miRNA; resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Melanoma / drug therapy
  • Melanoma / genetics*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / chemistry*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • MicroRNAs
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases