Melanocytes arise from the neural crest, migrate to the skin, and can be detected in the basal layer of the epidermis in skin biopsies of human fetuses as early as 11 weeks gestational age. During post-natal life, melanocytes reside at the basal layer of the epidermis, but the ligands to which they attach are unknown. Laminin-5 is a component of anchoring filaments of the lamina lucida of the epidermal basement membrane. In this report we show that human melanocytes adhere to purified laminin-5 to a level comparable with normal human keratinocytes. Blocking antibodies to the 165 kDa subunit of laminin-5 significantly inhibited fetal and neonatal melanocyte attachment to the surface of salt-split skin, which exposes laminin-5 on its surface, suggesting that laminin-5 is a ligand for melanocyte attachment to the basement membrane in vivo. Western blotting of concentrated culture supernatant of fetal and neonatal melanocytes with anti-laminin-5 antibodies demonstrated a single immunoreactive band of the expected size of laminin-5. In contrast, 3 human metastatic melanoma cell lines did not produce laminin-5. Immunofluorescence microscopy with antibodies to each of the three chains of laminin-5 confirmed the presence of laminin-5 in a peri-cellular distribution around melanocytes, but not melanoma cells. Our results suggest that laminin-5 may be a ligand for normal human melanocytes in the basement membrane, and that loss of laminin-5 production by melanoma cells may be a marker for malignant transformation.
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View details for PubMedID 10389639