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Cancer Res. 2005 May 15;65(10):4292-9.

alpha-Melanocortin and endothelin-1 activate antiapoptotic pathways and reduce DNA damage in human melanocytes.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Shriners' Burns Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio 45267-0592, USA.


UV radiation is an important etiologic factor for skin cancer, including melanoma. Constitutive pigmentation and the ability to tan are considered the main photoprotective mechanism against sun-induced carcinogenesis. Pigmentation in the skin is conferred by epidermal melanocytes that synthesize and transfer melanin to keratinocytes. Therefore, insuring the survival and genomic stability of epidermal melanocytes is critical for inhibiting photocarcinogenesis, particularly melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. The paracrine factors alpha-melanocortin and endothelin-1 are critical for the melanogenic response of cultured human melanocytes to UV radiation. We report that alpha-melanocortin and endothelin-1 rescued human melanocytes from UV radiation-induced apoptosis and reduced DNA photoproducts and oxidative stress. The survival effects of alpha-melanocortin and endothelin-1 were mediated by activation of the melanocortin 1 and endothelin receptors, respectively. Treatment of melanocytes with alpha-melanocortin and/or endothelin-1 before exposure to UV radiation activated the inositol triphosphate kinase-Akt pathway and increased the phosphorylation and expression of the microphthalmia-related transcription factor. Treatment with alpha-melanocortin and/or endothelin-1 enhanced the repair of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and reduced the levels of hydrogen peroxide induced by UV radiation. These effects are expected to reduce genomic instability and mutagenesis.

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