The incidence of malignant melanoma is growing rapidly worldwide and there is still no effective therapy for metastatic disease. Melanoma is the second most common cancer among young adults in the UK, where incidence rates have more than quadrupled since the 1970s. Increased expression of a number of DNA repair genes has been reported in melanoma and this likely contributes to its extreme resistance to conventional DNA-damaging chemotherapeutics. One such chemotherapeutic that is effective against a range of other cancers, but not melanoma, is cisplatin. The DNA repair proteins ERCC1 and XPF are needed to remove cisplatin-induced DNA damage and we have investigated the response of these proteins to cisplatin in melanoma. The expression of both genes is induced by cisplatin. Use of a MEK inhibitor showed that ERCC1, but not XPF induction was regulated by the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, with reduction in expression of DUSP6, the phosphatase that inactivates the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), being particularly important. DUSP6 overexpression prevented cisplatin induction of both ERCC1 and XPF, resulting in increased sensitivity to cisplatin. A novel ERCC1 mRNA was found that initiated upstream of the normal transcription initiation site, and was strongly regulated by both cisplatin and the MAPK pathway and its role in cisplatin resistance merits further study. The cisplatin induction of ERCC1 and XPF provides important insights into the resistance of melanoma to DNA-damaging chemotherapeutics, which is one of the major obstacles to melanoma treatment.
- DNA damage
- DUSP6 phosphatase