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Exp Cell Res. 2004 Mar 10;294(1):60-7.

Melanin protects melanocytes and keratinocytes against H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks through its ability to bind Ca2+.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) are produced in the skin under the influence of UV radiation. These compounds are highly reactive and can induce DNA lesions in epidermal cells. Melanin is considered to protect human skin against DNA damage by absorbing UV radiation. We have investigated whether melanin can, in addition, offer protection against the effects of H(2)O(2) in human melanocytes and HaCaT keratinocytes. In the present study, it was shown that 40 and 100 microM H(2)O(2) increased the number of DNA strand breaks as measured using the comet assay, in melanocytes of Caucasian origin. In melanocytes of the same origin in which melanin levels were increased by culturing in presence of 10 mM NH(4)Cl and elevated l-tyrosine, H(2)O(2)-induced DNA damage was reduced compared to that in control melanocytes. Similarly, HaCaT cells that were loaded with melanin were better protected against H(2)O(2)-induced DNA strand breaks than control HaCaT cells. These protective effects of melanin were mimicked by the intracellular Ca(2+)-chelator BAPTA. Thus, BAPTA reduced the level of H(2)O(2)-induced DNA strand breaks in melanocytes. Like BAPTA, melanin is known to be a potent chelator of Ca(2+) and this was confirmed in the present study. It was shown that melanin levels in melanocytic cells correlated directly with intracellular Ca(2+) binding capacity and, in addition, correlated inversely with H(2)O(2)-induced increases in intracellular Ca(2+). Our results show that melanin may have an important role in regulating intracellular Ca(2+) homeostasis and it is suggested that melanin protects against H(2)O(2)-induced DNA strand breaks in both melanocytes and keratinocytes and through its ability to bind Ca(2+).

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