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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Jun;994:348-58.

Genetic association and cellular function of MC1R variant alleles in human pigmentation.

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Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.


We have examined MC1R variant allele frequencies in the general population of South East Queensland and in a collection of adolescent dizygotic and monozygotic twins and family members to define statistical associations with hair and skin color, freckling, and mole count. Results of these studies are consistent with a linear recessive allelic model with multiplicative penetrance in the inheritance of red hair. Four alleles, D84E, R151C, R160W, and D294H, are strongly associated with red hair and fair skin with multinomial regression analysis showing odds ratios of 63, 118, 50, and 94, respectively. An additional three low-penetrance alleles V60L, V92M, and R163Q have odds ratios 6, 5, and 2 relative to the wild-type allele. To address the cellular effects of MC1R variant alleles in signal transduction, we expressed these receptors in permanently transfected HEK293 cells. Measurement of receptor activity via induction of a cAMP-responsive luciferase reporter gene found that the R151C and R160W receptors were active in the presence of NDP-MSH ligand, but at much reduced levels compared with that seen with the wild-type receptor. The ability to stimulate phosphorylation of the cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) transcription factor was also apparent in all stimulated MC1R variant allele-expressing HEK293 cell extracts as assessed by immunoblotting. In contrast, human melanoma cell lines showed wide variation in the their ability to undergo cAMP-mediated CREB phosphorylation. Culture of human melanocytes of known MC1R genotype may provide the best experimental approach to examine the functional consequences for each MC1R variant allele. With this objective, we have established more than 300 melanocyte cell strains of defined MC1R genotype.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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