Human sperm protein associated with the nucleus on the X chromosome (SPANX) genes encode a protein family (SPANX-A, -B, -C and -D), whose expression is limited to the testis and spermatozoa in normal tissues and various tumour cells. SPANX-A/D proteins have been detected in metastatic melanoma cells, but their contribution to cancer development and the underlying molecular mechanisms of skin tumourigenesis remain unknown. Combining functional and proteomic approaches, the present work describes the presence of SPANX-A/D in primary and metastatic human melanoma cells and how it promotes pro-tumoural processes such as cell proliferation, motility and migration. We provide insights into the molecular features of skin tumourigenesis, describing for the first time a multifunctional role of the SPANX-A/D protein family in nuclear function, energy metabolism and cell survival, considered key hallmarks of cancer. A better comprehension of the SPANX-A/D protein subfamily and its molecular mechanisms will help to describe new aspects of tumour cell biology and develop new therapeutic targets and tumour-directed pharmacological drugs for skin tumours.
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