Uncovering potential diagnostic and pathophysiological roles of α-synuclein and DJ-1 in melanoma


Quesnel A, Martin LD, Tarzi C, Lenis VP, Coles N, Islam M, Angione C, Outeiro TF, Khundakar AA, Filippou PS


Cancer Medicine


Cancer Med. 2024 Jan 8.


Melanoma, the most lethal skin cancer type, occurs more frequently in Parkinson’s disease (PD), and PD is more frequent in melanoma patients, suggesting disease mechanisms overlap. α-synuclein, a protein that accumulates in PD brain, and the oncogene DJ-1, which is associated with PD autosomal recessive forms, are both elevated in melanoma cells. Whether this indicates melanoma progression or constitutes a protective response remains unclear. We hereby investigated the molecular mechanisms through which α-synuclein and DJ-1 interact, suggesting novel biomarkers and targets in melanoma.
The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) expression profiles derived from UCSC Xena were used to obtain α-synuclein and DJ-1 expression and correlated with survival in skin cutaneous melanoma (SKCM). Immunohistochemistry determined the expression in metastatic melanoma lymph nodes. Protein–protein interactions (PPIs) and molecular docking assessed protein binding and affinity with chemotherapeutic drugs. Further validation was performed using in vitro cellular models and ELISA immunoassays.
α-synuclein and DJ-1 were upregulated in primary and metastatic SKCM. Aggregated α-synuclein was selectively detected in metastatic melanoma lymph nodes. α-synuclein overexpression in SK-MEL-28 cells induced the expression of DJ-1, supporting PPI and a positive correlation in melanoma patients. Molecular docking revealed a stable protein complex, with differential binding to chemotherapy drugs such as temozolomide, dacarbazine, and doxorubicin. Parallel reduction of both proteins in temozolomide-treated SK-MEL-28 spheroids suggests drug binding may affect protein interaction and/or stability.
α-synuclein, together with DJ-1, may play a role in melanoma progression and chemosensitivity, constituting novel targets for therapeutic intervention, and possible biomarkers for melanoma.


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