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Long-Term Vemurafenib Exposure Induced Alterations of Cell Phenotypes in Melanoma: Increased Cell Migration and Its Association with EGFR Expression

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  • Eszter Molnár
  • Tamás Garay
  • Marco Donia
  • Marcell Baranyi
  • Dominika Rittler
  • Walter Berger
  • József Tímár
  • Michael Grusch
  • Balázs Hegedűs
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Acquired resistance during BRAF inhibitor therapy remains a major challenge for melanoma treatment. Accordingly, we evaluated the phenotypical and molecular changes of isogeneic human V600E BRAF-mutant melanoma cell line pairs pre- and post-treatment with vemurafenib. Three treatment naïve lines were subjected to in vitro long-term vemurafenib treatment while three pairs were pre- and post-treatment patient-derived lines. Molecular and phenotypical changes were assessed by Sulforhodamine-B (SRB) assay, quantitative RT-PCR (q-RT-PCR), immunoblot, and time-lapse microscopy. We found that five out of six post-treatment cells had higher migration activity than pretreatment cells. However, no unequivocal correlation between increased migration and classic epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers could be identified. In fast migrating cells, the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mRNA levels were considerably lower and significantly higher, respectively. Interestingly, high EGFR expression was associated with elevated migration but not with proliferation. Cells with high EGFR expression showed significantly decreased sensitivity to vemurafenib treatment, and had higher Erk activation and FRA-1 expression. Importantly, melanoma cells with higher EGFR expression were more resistant to the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib treatment than cells with lower expression, with respect to both proliferation and migration inhibition. Finally, EGFR-high melanoma cells were characterized by higher PD-L1 expression, which might in turn indicate that immunotherapy may be an effective approach in these cases.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Volume20
Issue number18
ISSN1661-6596
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2019

ID: 58522012