Early differential diagnosis between malignant and benign tumors and their underlying intrinsic differences are the most critical issues for life-threatening cancers. To study whether human acral melanomas, deadly cancers that occur on non-hair-bearing skin, have distinct origins that underlie their invasive capability, we develop fate-tracing technologies of melanocyte stem cells in sweat glands (glandular McSCs) and in melanoma models in mice and compare the cellular dynamics with human melanoma. Herein, we report that glandular McSCs self-renew to expand their migratory progeny in response to genotoxic stress and trauma to generate invasive melanomas in mice that mimic human acral melanomas. The analysis of melanocytic lesions in human volar skin reveals that genetically unstable McSCs expand in sweat glands and in the surrounding epidermis in melanomas but not in nevi. The detection of such cell spreading dynamics provides an innovative method for an early differential diagnosis of acral melanomas from nevi.
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