CD44 expression in benign and malignant nevomelanocytic lesions

Christopher J. Leigh, Patricia L. Palechek, Jennifer R. Knutson, James B. Mccarthy, Michael B. Cohen, Zsolt B. Argenyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


CD44 is an integral membrane glycoprotein that is a principal receptor for hyaluronan and plays a role in cell-extracellular matrix interactions. Recent studies of melanomas in mouse models have suggested that increased CD44 expression by these tumors may relate to metastatic potential. Immunohistochemical expression of CD44 (standard [s] and variant [v6]) in benign and malignant nevomelanocytic lesions was assessed in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue and was correlated with histological parameters and prognostic factors. Cases included benign nevi (three junctional, four compound, five intradermal, five blue, six Spitz, one deep penetrating), architecturally disordered (dysplastic) nevi (three, and primary (22) and metastatic melanomas (eight). All of the benign lesions showed diffuse anti essentially uniform membrane staining of CD44s in nevomelanocytic cells, regardless of lesion size, depth, or extent of dermal involvement. In contrast, semiquantitative analysis (0 to 3+) of the primary melanomas showed heterogeneous and decreased staining of CD44s, which inversely correlated with lesion size (-0.569) and depth of invasion (-0.622 and -0.617 for Breslow's depth and Clark's level, respectively). These results were significant at P < .05. CD44s expression in metastases paralleled that of their respective primaries. None of the benign nevomelanocytic lesions showed CD44v6 staining. In contrast, all of the malignant nevomelanocytic lesions showed cytoplasmic staining of die tumor cells. Pretreatment with chondronitinase did not alter CD44s staining. CD44s expression by immnnohistochemical determination is uniform in benign nevomelanocytic lesions. Malignant melanomas show decreased, heterogeneous staining that inversely correlates with increasing size, depth, and level of invasion. CD44 expression may be a prognostic indicator in malignant melanomas. Tumor staining with anti-chondroitin sulfate monoclonal antibodies suggests that CD44s may be expressed as a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan in primary melanomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1288-1294
Number of pages7
JournalHuman pathology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by an American Cancer Society Clinical Oncology Career Development Award and by the Office of Research and Development (Medical Research Service), Department of Veterans Affairs (M.B.C.), Iowa City, IA.


  • CD44
  • cellular adhesion molecules
  • immunohistochemistry
  • melanoma
  • nevus


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