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J Cell Physiol. 2000 Jun;183(3):364-72.

Expression of functional mGlu5 metabotropic glutamate receptors in human melanocytes.

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Department of Dermatology, Ospedale di Frosinone, Frosinone, Italy.


Cultured human melanocytes express mGlu5 metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors, as shown by RT-PCR, immunocytochemistry, Western blot analysis, and measurement of agonist-stimulated polyphosphoinositide hydrolysis. The mGlu5 receptor agonists (S)-3, 5-dihydroxyphenylglycine and quisqualate increased [(3)H-methyl]thymidine incorporation and melanocyte proliferation in subconfluent cultures, but impaired cell viability in confluent cultures. Both effects were prevented by 2-methyl-6-(2-phenyl-1-ethynyl)-pyridine, a potent and highly selective mGlu5 receptor antagonist. Agonists of other mGlu receptor subtypes (such as the mGlu2/3 receptor agonist, 2S,2'R,3'R-2-2', 3'-dicarboxycyclopropylglycine, or the mGlu4/6/7/8 receptor agonist, L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutanoate) or selective agonists of ionotropic glutamate receptors (N-methyl-D-aspartate, alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate, and kainate) did not affect melanocyte proliferation or viability. The presence of a receptor for glutamate, the major excitatory neurotransmitter, in human melanocytes is intriguing. mGlu5 receptors may be involved in the control of melanocyte proliferation (and perhaps in other functions), but harbor a potential toxicity and may therefore contribute to cell damage under pathological conditions.

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