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Pigment Cell Res. 2001 Oct;14(5):328-36.

BMP-2 stimulates tyrosinase gene expression and melanogenesis in differentiated melanocytes.

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Basic Medical Sciences Department, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906, USA.


Cells of the vertebrate neural crest (crest cells) differentiate in vitro to melanocytes and sympathoadrenal (SA) progenitor cells. We have shown previously, using primary J. quail neural crest cultures, the combinatorial effect of bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) and cAMP signaling on SA cell development. Herein, we report that in primary J. quail neural crest cultures, BMP-2 and cAMP signaling similarly exert a combinatorial effect on melanocyte development. We demonstrate that BMP-2 treatment of neural crest cells increases melanogenesis by promoting the synthesis of melanin. This increased melanin synthesis by BMP-2 is effected by the selective increase in the transcription of the tyrosinase gene, encoding the rate-limiting enzyme of the melanin biosynthetic pathway. By contrast, BMP-2 exerts no effect on the expression of the tyrosine-related proteins 1 and 2 (Tyrpl and Dct), also involved in the melanin biosynthetic process, or on the expression of microphalmia (Mitf) gene, supporting the fact that BMP-2 does not affect melanocyte differentiation. Employing transient transfection analysis of tyrosinase-reporter constructs in B16 melanoma cells, we demonstrate that the BMP-2 response-element is localized between 900 and 1,100 bp upstream from the tyrosinase transcriptional start site. These studies support a role for BMP-2 in melanogenesis by selectively targeting the expression of the tyrosinase gene involved in melanin biosynthesis.

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