Age-Related Changes in HAPLN1 Increase Lymphatic Permeability and Affect Routes of Melanoma Metastasis.
Older melanoma patients have lower rates of sentinel lymph node (LN) metastases yet paradoxically have inferior survival. Patient age correlated with an inability to retain Technetium radiotracer during sentinel LN biopsy in over 1000 patients, and high technecium counts correlated to better survival. We hypothesized that loss of integrity in the lymphatic vasculature due to ECM degradation might play a role. We have implicated HAPLN1 in age-dependent ECM degradation in the dermis. Here we queried whether HAPLN1 could be altered in the lymphatic ECM. Lymphatic HAPLN1 expression was prognostic of long-term patient survival. Adding rHAPLN1 to aged fibroblast ECMs in vitro reduced endothelial permeability via modulation of VE-Cadherin junctions, whereas endothelial permeability was increased following HAPLN1-knockdown in young fibroblasts. In vivo, reconstitution of HAPLN1 in aged mice increased the number of LN metastases, but reduced visceral metastases. These data suggest that age-related changes in ECM can contribute to impaired lymphatics.