Microarray analysis sheds light on the dedifferentiating role of agouti signal protein in murine melanocytes via the Mc1r

Elodie Le Pape, Thierry Passeron, Alessio Giubellino, Julio C. Valencia, Rainer Wolber, Vincent J. Hearing

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The melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) is a key regulator of pigmentation in mammals and is tightly linked to an increased risk of skin cancers, including melanoma, in humans. Physiologically activated by α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (αMSH), MC1R function can be antagonized by a secreted factor, agouti signal protein (ASP), which is responsible for the lighter phenotypes in mammals (including humans), and is also associated with increased risk of skin cancer. It is therefore of great interest to characterize the molecular effects elicited by those MC1R ligands. In this study, we determined the gene expression profiles of murine melan-a melanocytes treated with ASP or αMSH over a 4-day time course using genome-wide oligonucleotide microarrays. As expected, there were significant reductions in expression of numerous melanogenic proteins elicited by ASP, which correlates with its inhibition of pigmentation. ASP also unexpectedly modulated the expression of genes involved in various other cellular pathways, including glutathione synthesis and redox metabolism. Many genes up-regulated by ASP are involved in morphogenesis (especially in nervous system development), cell adhesion, and extracellular matrix-receptor interactions. Concomitantly, ASP enhanced the migratory potential and the invasiveness of melanocytic cells in vitro. These results demonstrate the role of ASP in the dedifferentiation of melanocytes, identify pigment-related genes targeted by ASP and by αMSH, and provide insights into the pleiotropic molecular effects of MC1R signaling that may function during development and may affect skin cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1802-1807
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 10 2009


  • Pigmentation
  • Skin cancer

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