Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Menashe Bar-Eli, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gary E. Gallick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, M.D.

Committee Member

Dina Lev, M.D.

Committee Member

Steven E. Ullrich, Ph.D.


In melanoma patient specimens and cell lines, the over expression of galectin-3 is associated with disease progression and metastatic potential. Herein, we have sought out to determine whether galectin-3 affects the malignant melanoma phenotype by regulating downstream target genes. To that end, galectin-3 was stably silenced by utilizing the lentivirus-incorporated small hairpin RNA in two metastatic melanoma cell lines, WM2664 and A375SM, and subjected to gene expression microarray analysis. We identified and validated the lysophospholipase D enzyme, autotaxin, a promoter of migration, invasion, and tumorigenesis, to be down regulated after silencing galectin-3. Silencing galectin-3 significantly reduced the promoter activity of autotaxin. Interestingly, we also found the transcription factor NFAT1 to have reduced protein expression after silencing galectin-3. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays from previous reports have shown that NFAT1 binds to the autotaxin promoter in two locations. ChIP analysis was performed, and we observed a complete loss of bound NFAT1 to the autotaxin promoter after silencing galectin-3 in melanoma cells. Mutation of the NFAT1 binding sites at either location reduces autotaxin promoter activity. Silencing NFAT1 reduces autotaxin expression while over expressing NFAT1 in NFAT1 negative SB-2 melanoma cells induces autotaxin expression. These data suggest that galectin-3 silencing reduces autotaxin transcription by reducing the amount of NFAT1 protein expression. Rescue of galectin-3 rescues both NFAT1 and autotaxin. We also show that the re-expression of autotaxin in galectin-3 shRNA melanoma cells rescues the angiogenic phenotype in vivo. Furthermore, we identify NFAT1 as a potent inducer of tumor growth and experimental lung metastasis. Our data elucidate a previously unidentified mechanism by which galectin-3 regulates autotaxin and assign a novel role for NFAT1 during melanoma progression.


Melanoma, Metastasis, Galectin-3, Autotaxin, NFAT1



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