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An endothelin receptor B antagonist inhibits growth and induces cell death in human melanoma cells in vitro and in vivo

The National Academy of Sciences
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  • Biological Sciences
  • Medicine


Activation of the endothelin receptor B (ETRB) in cultured melanocyte precursors promotes cell proliferation while inhibiting differentiation, two hallmarks of malignant transformation. We therefore tested whether ETRB has a similar role in malignant transformation of melanoma. When tested in culture, we find that the selective ETRB antagonist BQ788 can inhibit the growth of seven human melanoma cell lines, but not a human kidney cell line. This inhibition often is associated with increases in pigmentation and in the dendritic shape that is characteristic of mature melanocytes. In three cell lines we also observe a major increase in cell death. In contrast, the endothelin receptor A (ETRA) antagonist BQ123 does not have these effects, although all the cell lines express both ETRA and ETRB mRNA. Extending these studies in vivo, we find that administration of BQ788 significantly slows human melanoma tumor growth in nude mice, including a complete growth arrest in half of the mice treated systemically. Histological examination of tumor sections suggests that BQ788 also enhances melanoma cell death in vivo. Thus, ETRB inhibitors may be beneficial for the treatment of melanoma.

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