CD31 and CD34 expression as immunohistochemical markers of endothelial transdifferentiation in human cutaneous melanoma

A. M. Pisacane, F. Picciotto, M. Risio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Vasculogenic mimicry, as previously described in aggressive melanoma, is characterized by the de novo generation of intratumoral patterned vascular channels, composed of PAS-positive basement membrane in the absence of endothelial cells, providing additional microcirculation, in support to the classic tumoral angiogenesis. Methods: We investigated the immunohistochemical expression of two endothelial markers, CD31 and CD34, in tumoral cells of 60 melanomas (45 primary cutaneous and 15 metastatic) as possible evidence of vasculogenic mimicry. In addition we investigated the relationship between CD31 and CD34 expression and three pathological markers such as Clark's level, and skin ulceration, predictive of melanoma's aggressive behaviour, and mitotic index. Results: No cases of common melanocytic nevi immunoreacted with CD31 or CD34. Random CD31 immunoreactivity was present in 6% of Clark's level I/II, 50% of Clark's level III and 80% Clark's level IV/V. CD34 was negative in Clark's level I/II but randomly stained the 20% and 55% of level III and IV/V respectively. 66% (10/15) of metastatic melanomas were CD31 positive showing a canalicular immunostaining pattern, conversely CD34 expression was never found. 7/8 cutaneous ulcerated melanomas immunostained for CD31 and 4/8 for CD34. CD31 immunostained 88% high/intermediate MI, and 53% of low MI melanomas. CD34 decorated the 29% of high/intermediate and 38% of low MI melanomas. Conclusions: CD31 and CD34 immunoreactivity closely parallel both the different morphologic steps of melanocytic tumor progression and the presence of histological parameters related to the aggressive behaviour. Their expression could be related to endothelial transdifferentiation of melanoma cells although a consequent functional role has not been demonstrated yet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalCellular Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Malignant melanoma
  • Tumor-cell plasticity
  • Vasculogenic mimicry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Oncology


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