SOX2 is an embryonic neural crest stem-cell transcription factor recently shown to be expressed in human melanoma and to correlate with experimental tumor growth. SOX2 binds to an enhancer region of the gene that encodes for nestin, also a neural progenitor cell biomarker. To define further the potential relationship between SOX2 and nestin, we examined co-expression patterns in 135 melanomas and 37 melanocytic nevi. Immunohistochemical staining in 27 melanoma tissue sections showed an association between SOX2 positivity, spindle cell shape and a peripheral nestin distribution pattern. In contrast, SOX2-negative cells were predominantly epithelioid, and exhibited a cytoplasmic pattern for nestin. In tissue microarrays, co-expression correlated with tumor progression, with only 11% of nevi co-expressing SOX2 and nestin in contrast to 65% of metastatic melanomas, and preliminarily, with clinical outcome. Human melanoma lines that differentially expressed constitutive SOX2 revealed a positive correlation between SOX2 and nestin expression. Experimental melanomas grown from these respective cell lines in murine subcutis and dermis of xenografted human skin maintained the association between SOX2-positivity, spindle cell shape, and peripheral nestin distribution. Moreover, the cytoplasmic pattern of nestin distribution was observed in xenografts generated from SOX2-knockdown A2058 melanoma cells, in contrast to the peripheral nestin pattern seen in tumors grown from A2058 control cells transfected with non-target shRNA. In aggregate, these data further support a biologically significant linkage between SOX2 and nestin expression in human melanoma.
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