The identification of molecules that are preferentially expressed in melanoma cells and involved in their malignant phenotypes is important for understanding melanoma biology and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods. By comparing the expression profile of a melanoma cell line with those of various normal tissues using GeneChip and by confirming the actual expression of the selected genes by reverse transcription-PCR and Northern and Western blot analyses, fatty acid-binding protein 7 (FABP7), which is frequently expressed in melanomas, was identified. Immunohistochemical examination revealed that FABP7 was expressed in 11 of 15 melanoma tissues. By down-regulating the FABP7 expression with FABP7-specific small interfering RNAs, in vitro cell proliferation and Matrigel invasion were suppressed in two of six melanoma cell lines. Overexpression of FABP7 in a FABP7-negative embryonic kidney cell line 293T by transfecting with the FABP7 cDNA resulted in enhanced cell proliferation and Matrigel invasion, indicating that FABP7 plays a role in the malignant phenotype of some melanoma cell lines. IgG antibodies specific for the phage or bacterial recombinant FABP7 protein were detected in 14 of 25 (56%) or in 8 of 31 (26%) sera from melanoma patients, respectively, but not in sera from healthy individuals, indicating that FABP7 is an immunogenic antigen in melanoma patients. These results showed that FABP7 is frequently expressed in melanoma, may be involved in cell proliferation and invasion, and may be a potential target for development of diagnostic and therapeutic methods.
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