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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jul 27;276(30):28147-54. Epub 2001 May 29.

Involvement of ITF2 in the transcriptional regulation of melanogenic genes.

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  • 1Pigment Cell Biology Section, Laboratory of Cell Biology, NCI, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


In response to agouti signal protein, melanocytes switch from producing eumelanin to pheomelanin concomitant with the down-regulation of melanogenic gene transcription. We previously reported that a ubiquitous basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor, known as ITF2, is up-regulated during this switch, and we now report that treatment of melanocytes with melanocyte-stimulating hormone down-regulates expression of ITF2. To more fully characterize the involvement of ITF2 in regulating melanogenic gene transcription, ITF2 sense or antisense constructs were introduced into melan-a melanocytes. Gene and protein expression analyses and luciferase reporter assays using promoters from melanogenic genes showed that up-regulation of ITF2 suppressed melanogenic gene expression as well as the expression of Mitf, a melanocyte-specific transcription factor. In addition, stable ITF2 sense transfectants had significant reductions in pigmentation and a less dendritic phenotype compared with mock transfectants. In contrast, ITF2 antisense-transfected melanocytes were more pigmented and more dendritic. These results demonstrate that up-regulation of ITF2 during the pheomelanin switch is functionally significant and reveal that differential expression of a ubiquitous basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor can modulate expression of melanogenic genes and the differentiation of melanocytes.

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