Transcriptome Profiling Reveals New Insights into the Immune Microenvironment and Upregulation of Novel Biomarkers in Metastatic Uveal Melanoma

Cancers (Basel). 2020 Sep 30;12(10):2832. doi: 10.3390/cancers12102832.


Metastatic uveal melanoma (mUM) to the liver is incurable. Transcriptome profiling of 40 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded mUM liver resections and 6 control liver specimens was undertaken. mUMs were assessed for morphology, nuclear BAP1 (nBAP1) expression, and their tumour microenvironments (TME) using an "immunoscore" (absent/altered/high) for tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and macrophages (TAMs). Transcriptomes were compared between mUM and control liver; intersegmental and intratumoural analyses were also undertaken. Most mUM were epithelioid cell-type (75%), amelanotic (55%), and nBAP1-ve (70%). They had intermediate (68%) or absent (15%) immunoscores for TILs and intermediate (53%) or high (45%) immunoscores for TAMs. M2-TAMs were dominant in the mUM-TME, with upregulated expression of ANXA1, CD74, CXCR4, MIF, STAT3, PLA2G6, and TGFB1. Compared to control liver, mUM showed significant (p < 0.01) upregulation of 10 genes: DUSP4, PRAME, CD44, IRF4/MUM1, BCL2, CD146/MCAM/MUC18, IGF1R, PNMA1, MFGE8/lactadherin, and LGALS3/Galectin-3. Protein expression of DUSP4, CD44, IRF4, BCL-2, CD146, and IGF1R was validated in all mUMs, whereas protein expression of PRAME was validated in 10% cases; LGALS3 stained TAMs, and MFGEF8 highlighted bile ducts only. Intersegmental mUMs show differing transcriptomes, whereas those within a single mUM were similar. Our results show that M2-TAMs dominate mUM-TME with upregulation of genes contributing to immunosuppression. mUM significantly overexpress genes with targetable signalling pathways, and yet these may differ between intersegmental lesions.

Keywords: DUSP4; MUM1; immunotherapy; metastatic uveal melanoma; transcriptome profiling.