Cystatin C takes part in melanoma-microglia cross-talk: possible implications for brain metastasis

Adi Moshe, Sivan Izraely, Orit Sagi-Assif, Roshini Prakash, Alona Telerman, Tsipi Meshel, Thomas Carmichael, Isaac P. Witz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The development of melanoma brain metastasis is largely dependent on mutual interactions between the melanoma cells and cells in the brain microenvironment. Here, we report that the extracellular cysteine protease inhibitor cystatin C (CysC) is involved in these interactions. Microglia-derived factors upregulated CysC secretion by melanoma. Similarly, melanoma-derived factors upregulated CysC secretion by microglia. Whereas CysC enhanced melanoma cell migration through a layer of brain endothelial cells, it inhibited the migration of microglia cells toward melanoma cells. CysC was also found to promote the formation of melanoma three-dimensional structures in matrigel. IHC analysis revealed increased expression levels of CysC in the brain of immune-deficient mice bearing xenografted human melanoma brain metastasis compared to the brain of control mice. Based on these in vitro and in vivo experiments we hypothesize that CysC promotes melanoma brain metastasis. Increased expression levels of CysC were detected in the regenerating brain of mice after stroke. Post-stroke brain with melanoma brain metastasis showed an even stronger expression of CysC. The in vitro induction of stroke-like conditions in brain microenvironmental cells increased the levels of CysC in the secretome of microglia cells, but not in the secretome of brain endothelial cells. The similarities between melanoma brain metastasis and stroke with respect to CysC expression by and secretion from microglia cells suggest that CysC may be involved in shared pathways between brain metastasis and post-stroke regeneration. This manifests the tendency of tumor cells to highjack physiological molecular pathways in their progression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalClinical and Experimental Metastasis
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Brain metastasis
  • Cystatin C
  • Melanoma
  • Microglia
  • Stroke


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