Document Type



Medicine and Health Sciences



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs (18–24 nucleotides) that have recently been shown to regulate gene expression during cancer progression. Dicer, a central enzyme in the multi-component miRNA biogenesis pathway, is involved in cutting precursor miRNAs to functionally mature forms. Emerging evidence shows that Dicer expression is deregulated in some human malignancies and it correlates with tumor progression, yet this role has not yet been investigated in skin cancers.

Methods and Findings

Using an anti-human monoclonal antibody against Dicer and immunohistochemistry, we compared the expression of Dicer protein among 404 clinically annotated controls and skin tumors consisting of melanocytic nevi (n = 71), a variety of melanomas (n = 223), carcinomas (n = 73) and sarcomas (n = 12). Results showed a cell-specific up-regulated Dicer in 81% of cutaneous, 80% of acrolentiginous and 96% of metastatic melanoma specimens compared to carcinoma or sarcoma specimens (P<0.0001). The expression of Dicer was significantly higher in melanomas compared to benign melanocytic nevi (P<0.0001). In patients with cutaneous melanomas, Dicer up-regulation was found to be significantly associated with an increased tumor mitotic index (P = 0.04), Breslow's depth of invasion (P = 0.03), nodal metastasis (P = 0.04) and a higher American Joint Committee on Caner (AJCC) clinical stage (P = 0.009). Using western blot analysis, we confirmed the cell-specific up-regulation of Dicer protein in vitro. A pooled-analysis on mRNA profiling in cutaneous tumors showed up-regulation of Dicer at the RNA level in cutaneous melanoma, also showing deregulation of other enzymes that participate in the biogenesis and maturation of canonical miRNAs.


Increased Dicer expression may be a clinically useful biomarker for patients with cutaneous melanoma. Understanding deregulation of Dicer and its influence on miRNA maturation is needed to predict the susceptibility of melanoma patients to miRNA-based therapy in the future.


PLoS One. 2011; 6(6): e20494. Published online 2011 June 17. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020494 PMCID: PMC3117784 Copyright Ma et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.