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Lactoferrin (Lf) expression was determined immunohistochemically in 57 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded bioptic samples obtained from an equal number of patients treated by surgery to remove pigmented skin lesions (nevi = 23; melanoma = 12; vulgaris and seborrhoeic warts = 12; basal cell carcinoma = 10); in addition, 10 specimens of normal skin were studied as control. On 3 ?m thick sections, depigmentation and antigen retrieval procedures were performed. The Lf immunoreactivity was revealed by a rabbit anti-human Lf. Quantification of Lf immunoreactivity was performed using an intensity-distribution (ID) score. Melanocytic cells, regardless of their benign or malignant nature, were consistently stained, with no significant differences in the Lf IDscore between melanomas or nevi. A different intensity of Lf immunoreactivity was encountered in superficial portions of warts, exclusively inside squamous epithelial cells arranged in sheets or whorls of keratin. On the contrary, basal cell carcinomas were always unstained, while a slight Lf positivity was found in focal keratinized areas present in two tumours showing baso-squamous differentiation. The Lf immunoreactivity was localized in the cytoplasm and only occasionally in the nucleus. The biological meaning of Lf in these cases of human skin specimens remains unexplained, although it cannot be ruled out that Lf might be involved in the defense system against tumours, or alternatively, may be used by cells requiring iron availability for their turnover. Moreover, the immunohistochemical expression of Lf in melanocytic lesions might be also related to a Lf-melanin interaction. Finally, the involvement of Lf in skin squamous non-neoplastic elements could be related to its role as one of the molecules modulating an unspecific inflammatory or anti-oxidant response.
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