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Review: melanocyte migration and survival controlled by SCF/c-kit expression.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Japan.


Melanocytes are derived from neural crest and migrate along the dorsolateral pathway to colonize the final destination in the skin. Stem cell factor and its receptor c-kit were identified as gene products of Sl and W mutant loci; both of them were known to have defects in melanocytes survival. In this review, we focus on the function of stem cell factor and c-kit in melanocyte migration and survival, which has become clearer in the last decade. By analysis of both molecules in wild-type and white spotting mutant mice, ligand and receptor set were shown to play multiple roles in the development of melanocytes in mouse ontogeny. Functional blockade of c-kit by specific monoclonal antibody illustrated distinct c-kit dependent and independent stages in melanocyte development. Finally, SCF transgene expression demonstrated that part of the c-kit dependent step is regulated by spatiotemporally specific ligand expression and also indicated the presence of c-kit independent melanocyte stem cells in postnatal skin.

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