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J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Aug;123(2):346-53.

Autocrine catecholamine biosynthesis and the beta-adrenoceptor signal promote pigmentation in human epidermal melanocytes.

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Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK.


Earlier it has been shown that human proliferating/undifferentiated basal keratinocytes hold the full capacity for autocrine catecholamine synthesis/degradation and express beta2-adrenoceptors (beta2-AR). In this report, we show that human melanocytes also express all of the mRNA and enzymes for autocrine synthesis of norepinephrine but fail to produce epinephrine. So far, it was established that human melanocytes express alpha1-AR which are induced by norepinephrine yielding the inosine triphosphate diacylglycerol signal. The presence of catecholamine synthesis and the beta2-AR signal escaped definition at that time. Using RT-PCR, immunofluorescence and radioligand binding with the beta2-AR antagonist (-)-[3H]CGP 12177, we show here that human melanocytes express functional beta2-AR (4230 receptors per cell) with a Bmax at 129.3 and a KD of 3.19 nM but lack beta1-AR expression. beta2-AR stimulation with epinephrine 10(-6) M and salbutamol 10(-6)-10(-5) M yielded a strong cyclic adenosine monophospate (cAMP) response in association with upregulated melanin production. Taken together these results indicate that the biosynthesis and release of epinephrine (10(-6) M) by surrounding keratinocytes can provide the cAMP response leading to melanogenesis in melanocytes via the beta2-AR signal. Moreover, the discovery of this catecholaminergic cAMP response in melanocytes adds a new source for this important second messenger in melanogenesis.

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