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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Mar;114(3):520-6.

alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone modulates nitric oxide production in melanocytes.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK.


We have previously observed that melanocytes produce nitric oxide in response to ultraviolet radiation and lipopolysaccharide and in this study have examined how these responses are affected by alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone. Nitric oxide production by cultured cells was measured electrochemically in real time using an ISO-nitric oxide sensor probe. B16 mouse melanoma cells released nitric oxide in response to lipopolysaccharide and the effects were enhanced in cells that had been grown in the presence of 10-11-10-9 M alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone prior to stimulation. At concentrations in excess of 10-9 M alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone decreased nitric oxide production. Preincubation with lipopolysaccharide, a well-known inducer of inducible nitric oxide synthase, also increased nitric oxide production but this response was reduced by alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone. alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone also increased the levels of nitric oxide produced in response to ultraviolet radiation (20-100 mJ per cm2) in B16 cells. The same effect was seen in human melanocytes and as this was inhibited by aminoguanidine would appear to involve an induction of inducible nitric oxide synthase. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction showed that melanocytic cells express inducible nitric oxide synthase mRNA. Western blotting analysis and immunocytochemistry confirmed the presence of inducible nitric oxide synthase protein in B16 cells and FM55 human melanoma cells and that the levels were increased in response to alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone. alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone, however, decreased inducible nitric oxide synthase protein expression, which occurred in response to lipopolysaccharide. These results suggest that alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone regulates nitric oxide production in melanocytic cells by modulating the induction of inducible nitric oxide synthase. Additional experiments showed that nitric oxide increased melanin production by B16 cells and human melanocytes. This is in keeping with a melanogenic role for nitric oxide but whether its production by melanocytes in response to alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone is associated with such a role or whether it has some other significance relating to melanocyte differentiation or in mediating immunomodulatory actions of alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone remains to be seen.

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