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Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) induces apoptosis in melanoma by interaction with death receptors TRAIL-R1 (DR4) or TRAIL-R2 (DR5) on melanoma cells or resists apoptosis by interaction with decoy receptors TRAIL-R3 (DcR1) or TRAIL-R4 (DcR2). Studies on cell lines suggest that there is a wide variation in TRAIL death receptor expression; however, their expression on excised human melanoma is not well documented. In view of this, we studied death receptor expression on melanomas using monoclonal antibodies specific for these receptors. Immunohistochemical staining for DR4, DR5, and DcR1/DcR2 was performed on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections of 100 cases of primary melanoma, metastatic melanoma, and benign nevi. Percentage expressions of DR4 versus DR5 in benign nevi, primary melanoma, and melanoma metastases were 40% versus 90%, 69% versus 98%, and 55% versus 66%, respectively. There were significant differences in the mean percentage of DR5-positive cells between different groups of melanocytic lesions. Percent expression was higher in thin (< or =1.0 mm) compared with thick primary melanoma (88.9% versus 66.9%), and expression was less in subcutaneous metastases (49%) and lymph node metastases (30.6%) (P < .005). Expression was also higher in compound nevi (57%) than dysplastic nevi (49%). DcR1/DcR2 was found in 75% of benign nevi, 62% of primary melanomas, and 74% melanoma metastases. The results showed a wide variation in the expression of death receptors for TRAIL between and within primary and metastatic melanoma and a decreased expression on the thick primary melanoma and metastatic melanoma. This suggests that melanoma may not respond to treatment with TRAIL unless given with agents that increase the expression of TRAIL death receptors.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Pathol

Publication Date





1286 - 1294


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins, Biomarkers, Tumor, Cell Count, Disease Progression, Disease-Free Survival, Female, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Lymph Nodes, Lymphatic Metastasis, Male, Melanoma, Membrane Glycoproteins, Middle Aged, Nevus, Skin Neoplasms, Subcutaneous Tissue, Survival Rate, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha