Nestin is a newly identified intermediate filament expressed in proliferating neuronal progenitor cells, but not in the adult brain. Nestin expression reappears in many tumors of the central nervous system and has in human glioblastomas been associated with a high degree of malignancy. Because melanocytes are of neuroectodermal origin, we studied nestin expression in benign and malignant cells of the melanocytic lineage using Northern blot and immunohistochemical analyses. Nestin mRNA was detected in 24 of 34 metastatic melanomas and in 1 of 4 benign nevi, whereas the protein was expressed in 10 of 15 primary melanomas, in 29 of 34 metastatic tumors, and in 3 of 4 nevi. Neither normal melanocytes nor any of 4 basal cell carcinomas showed detectable levels of the protein. The high fraction of melanocytic tumors which express nestin, particularly the metastatic melanomas, suggests that nestin may be a useful marker for such malignancies. Furthermore, although no significant correlation between nestin expression and tumor malignancy was observed, the protein was most abundantly expressed in the infiltrating part of the tumors, indicating a possible involvement of nestin in tumor invasion.

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This work was supported by The Norwegian and Swedish Cancer Societies.

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