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Concept: Melanin


The presence of dark melanin (eumelanin) within human epidermis represents one of the strongest predictors of low skin cancer risk. Topical rescue of eumelanin synthesis, previously achieved in “redhaired” Mc1r-deficient mice, demonstrated significant protection against UV damage. However, application of a topical strategy for human skin pigmentation has not been achieved, largely due to the greater barrier function of human epidermis. Salt-inducible kinase (SIK) has been demonstrated to regulate MITF, the master regulator of pigment gene expression, through its effects on CRTC and CREB activity. Here, we describe the development of small-molecule SIK inhibitors that were optimized for human skin penetration, resulting in MITF upregulation and induction of melanogenesis. When topically applied, pigment production was induced in Mc1r-deficient mice and normal human skin. These findings demonstrate a realistic pathway toward UV-independent topical modulation of human skin pigmentation, potentially impacting UV protection and skin cancer risk.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Ultraviolet, Regulation of gene expression, Skin, Melanin, Human skin color, Melanocyte


Melanin is the main pigment in animal coloration and considerable variation in the concentrations of the two melanin forms (pheo- and eumlanin) in pigmented tissues exists among populations and individuals. Melanin-based coloration is receiving increasing attention particularly in socio-sexual communication contexts because the melanocortin system has been hypothesized to provide a mechanistic basis for covariation between coloration and fitness traits. However, with few notable exceptions, little detailed information is available on inter-individual and inter-population variation in melanin pigmentation and on its environmental, genetic and ontogenetic components. Here, we investigate melanin-based coloration in an Italian population of a passerine bird, the barn swallow (), its sex- and age-related variation, and heritability. The concentrations of eu- and pheomelanin in the throat (brown) and belly (white-to-brownish) feathers differed between sexes but not according to age. The relative concentration of either melanin (Pheo:Eu) differed between sexes in throat but not in belly feathers, and the concentrations in males compared to females were larger in belly than in throat feathers. There were weak correlations between the concentrations of melanins within as well as among plumage regions. Coloration of belly feathers was predicted by the concentration of both melanins whereas coloration of throat feathers was only predicted by pheomelanin in females. In addition, Pheo:Eu predicted coloration of throat feathers in females and that of belly feathers in males. Finally, we found high heritability of color of throat feathers. Melanization was found to differ from that recorded in from Scotland or from from North America. Hence, present results show that pigmentation strategies vary in a complex manner according to sex and plumage region, and also among geographical populations, potentially reflecting adaptation to different natural and sexual selection regimes, and that some coloration components seem to be highly heritable.

Concepts: Genetics, Male, Sexual dimorphism, Bird, Sex, Melanin, Pigment, Barn Swallow


Magnolia grandiflora L. flower is wildly used in Asian as a traditional herbal medication. The purpose of the study was to investigate the antimelanogenic and antioxidant properties of Magnolia grandiflora L. flower extract. In the study, the inhibitory effects of M. grandiflora L. flower extract on mushroom tyrosinase, B16F10 intracellular tyrosinase activity and melanin content were determined spectrophotometrically. Meanwhile, the antioxidative capacity of the flower extract was also investigated.

Concepts: Antioxidant, Melanin, Herbalism, Melanocyte, Tyrosinase, Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora


Human skin color is predominantly determined by melanin produced in melanosomes within melanocytes and subsequently distributed to keratinocytes. There are many studies that have proposed mechanisms underlying ethnic skin color variations, whereas the processes involved from melanin synthesis in melanocytes to the transfer of melanosomes to keratinocytes are common among humans. Apart from the activities in the melanogenic rate-limiting enzyme, tyrosinase, in melanocytes and the amounts and distribution patterns of melanosomes in keratinocytes, the abilities of the actin-associated factors in charge of melanosome transport within melanocytes also regulate pigmentation. Mutations in genes encoding melanosome transport-related molecules, such as MYO5A, RAB27A and SLAC-2A, have been reported to cause a human pigmentary disease known as Griscelli syndrome, which is associated with diluted skin and hair color. Thus we hypothesized that process might play a role in modulating skin color variations. To address that hypothesis, the correlations of expression of RAB27A and its specific effector, SLAC2-A, to melanogenic ability were evaluated in comparison with tyrosinase, using human melanocytes derived from 19 individuals of varying skin types. Following the finding of the highest correlation in RAB27A expression to the melanogenic ability, darkly-pigmented melanocytes with significantly higher RAB27A expression were found to transfer significantly more melanosomes to keratinocytes than lightly-pigmented melanocytes in co-culture and in human skin substitutes (HSSs) in vivo, resulting in darker skin color in concert with the difference observed in African-descent and Caucasian skins. Additionally, RAB27A knockdown by a lentivirus-derived shRNA in melanocytes concomitantly demonstrated a significantly reduced number of transferred melanosomes to keratinocytes in co-culture and a significantly diminished epidermal melanin content skin color intensity (ΔL* = 4.4) in the HSSs. These data reveal the intrinsically essential role of RAB27A in human ethnic skin color determination and provide new insights for the fundamental understanding of regulatory mechanisms underlying skin pigmentation.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Skin, Melanin, Race, Human skin color, Melanocyte, Eye color, Human skin


To analyze the effect of baseline presence and height of pigment epithelial detachments (PEDs) on visual and anatomic outcomes at 24 months in patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) treated with ranibizumab.

Concepts: Melanin, Macular degeneration, Ranibizumab


Skin hyperpigmentation is characterized by increased melanin synthesis and deposition that can cause significant psychosocial and psychological distress. Although several cytokine-receptor signaling cascades contribute to the formation of ultraviolet B-induced cutaneous hyperpigmentation, their possible involvement in other types of skin hyperpigmentation has never been clearly addressed. Since our continuous studies using skin specimens from more than 30 subjects with ethnic skin diversity emphasized a consistent augmentation in the expression of endothelin-1 (ET-1) and its receptor (Endothelin B receptor, ET-B) in hyperpigmented lesions, including senile lentigos (SLs), the precise function of ET-1 signaling was investigated in the present study. In line with previous studies, ET-1 significantly induced melanogenesis followed by increases in melanosome transport in melanocytes and in its transfer to keratinocytes while inhibition of ET-B function substantially depressed melanogenic ability in tissue-cultured SLs. Additionally, in agreement with a previous report that the formation of autophagosomes rather than melanosomes is stimulated according to starvation or defective melanosome production, ET-1 was found to remarkably augment the expression of components necessary for early melanosome formation, indicating its counteraction against autophagy-targeting melanosome degradation in melanocytes. Despite the lack of substantial impact of ET-1 on keratinocyte melanogenic functions, the expression of ET-1 was enhanced following melanosome uptake by keratinocytes. Taken together, our data suggest that ET-1 plays a substantial role in the development and/or maintenance of skin hyperpigmentation in reciprocal cooperation with increased melanosome incorporation.

Concepts: Melanoma, Skin, Melanin, Epidermis, Human skin color, Skin anatomy, Melanocyte, Melanosome


Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of visual loss among the elderly. A key cell-type involved in AMD, the retinal pigment epithelium expresses a g-protein coupled receptor that, in response to its ligand, L-DOPA, upregulates pigment epithelia derived factor, while downregulating vascular endothelial growth factor. In this study we investigated the potential relationship between L-DOPA and AMD.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Epithelium, Retina, Melanin, Macular degeneration, Bruch's membrane, Drusen, Retinal pigment epithelium


While the role of genetic risk factors in the etiology of uveal melanoma (UM) has been strongly suggested, the genetic susceptibility to UM is currently vastly unexplored. Due to shared epidemiological risk factors between cutaneous melanoma (CM) and UM, in this study we have selected 28 SNPs identified as risk variants in previous genome-wide association studies on CM or CM-related host phenotypes (such as pigmentation and eye color) and tested them for association with UM risk. By logistic regression analysis of 272 UM cases and 1782 controls using an additive model, we identified five variants significantly associated with UM risk, all passing adjustment for multiple testing. The three most significantly associated variants rs12913832 (OR = 0.529, 95% CI 0.415-0.673; p = 8.47E-08), rs1129038 (OR = 0.533, 95% CI 0.419-0.678; p = 1.19E-07) and rs916977 (OR = 0.465, 95% CI 0.339-0.637; p = 3.04E-07) are correlated (r(2) > 0.5) and map at 15q12 in the region of HERC2/OCA2, which determines eye-color in the human population. Our data provides first evidence that the genetic factors associated with pigmentation traits are risk loci of UM susceptibility.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Gene, Genetics, Population, Melanin, Uveal melanoma, Genetic epidemiology


Looking young for one’s age has been a desire since time immemorial. This desire is attributable to the belief that appearance reflects health and fecundity. Indeed, perceived age predicts survival [1] and associates with molecular markers of aging such as telomere length [2]. Understanding the underlying molecular biology of perceived age is vital for identifying new aging therapies among other purposes, but studies are lacking thus far. As a first attempt, we performed genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of perceived facial age and wrinkling estimated from digital facial images by analyzing over eight million SNPs in 2,693 elderly Dutch Europeans from the Rotterdam Study. The strongest genetic associations with perceived facial age were found for multiple SNPs in the MC1R gene (p < 1 × 10(-7)). This effect was enhanced for a compound heterozygosity marker constructed from four pre-selected functional MC1R SNPs (p = 2.69 × 10(-12)), which was replicated in 599 Dutch Europeans from the Leiden Longevity Study (p = 0.042) and in 1,173 Europeans of the TwinsUK Study (p = 3 × 10(-3)). Individuals carrying the homozygote MC1R risk haplotype looked on average up to 2 years older than non-carriers. This association was independent of age, sex, skin color, and sun damage (wrinkling, pigmented spots) and persisted through different sun-exposure levels. Hence, a role for MC1R in youthful looks independent of its known melanin synthesis function is suggested. Our study uncovers the first genetic evidence explaining why some people look older for their age and provides new leads for further investigating the biological basis of how old or young people look.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Molecular biology, Senescence, Biology, Gerontology, Old age, Melanin


Here we describe a new mouse model that exploits the pattern of expression of the high-affinity IgG receptor (CD64) and allows diphtheria toxin (DT)-mediated ablation of tissue-resident macrophages and monocyte-derived cells. We found that the myeloid cells of the ear skin dermis are dominated by DT-sensitive, melanin-laden cells that have been missed in previous studies and correspond to macrophages that have ingested melanosomes from neighboring melanocytes. Those cells have been referred to as melanophages in humans. We also identified melanophages in melanocytic melanoma. Benefiting of our knowledge on melanophage dynamics, we determined the identity, origin, and dynamics of the skin myeloid cells that capture and retain tattoo pigment particles. We showed that they are exclusively made of dermal macrophages. Using the possibility to delete them, we further demonstrated that tattoo pigment particles can undergo successive cycles of capture-release-recapture without any tattoo vanishing. Therefore, congruent with dermal macrophage dynamics, long-term tattoo persistence likely relies on macrophage renewal rather than on macrophage longevity.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Skin, Melanin, Ear, Dermis, Epidermis, Melanocyte