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Prognostic significance of melanogenesis pathway and its association with the ultrastructural characterisation of melanosomes in uveal melanoma.

BACKGROUND: Pigmentation could be a relevant prognostic factor in uveal melanoma (UM) development. Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) regulates melanin synthesis by activating tyrosinase-related protein 2 (TYRP2) and silver protein (SILV) that induce the melanogenesis pathway. Although their oncogenic potential has been observed in various malignancies but has not been investigated in UM Asian population. Our aim is to study the ultrastructure of melanosomes and the prognostic significance of pigmentation markers such as TYRP2, MITF and SILV in UM.

METHODS: Transmission electron microscopy was performed to compare the ultrastructure of melanosomes in the normal choroid and UM cases. Immunoexpression of TYRP2, SILV and MITF was analysed in 82 UM samples. The mRNA expression level of all genes was measured in 70 UM cases. A statistical correlation was performed to determine the prognostic significance of all markers.

RESULTS: Premelanosomes and mature melanosomes undergoing dedifferentiation were observed in high-pigmented UM cases as compared with low-pigmented UM cases. Seventy per cent of UM cases showed high SILV expression while TYRP2 and MITF expression was present in 58% and 56% of cases, respectively. At the mRNA level, upregulation of TYRP2, SILV and MITF markers was seen in around 50% of UM cases, which was statistically significant with high pigmentation. Reduced metastatic-free survival was statistically significant with the MITF protein expression.

CONCLUSION: Our results demonstrated that ultrastructural changes in melanosomes and high expression of TYRP2, MITF and SILV could dysregulate the melanogenesis pathway and might be responsible for the aggressive behaviour of UM.

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