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J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Nov;123(5):917-23.

Pharmacological characterization of loss of function mutations of the human melanocortin 1 receptor that are associated with red hair.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Division of Pharmacology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.

Abstract

Variation in skin color is the major host risk factor for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. Individuals with red hair show an increased ratio of phaeomelanin to eumelanin in both hair and skin. This ratio is regulated by the melanocortin (MC) 1 receptor. There are several common point mutations in the human MC1 receptor that are overrepresented in North European red-heads, and in individuals with pale skin. In order to determine the functional significance of these mutations, we expressed the Asp84Glu, Val92Met, Arg163Gln, and Asp294His variants of the human MC1 receptors in eukaryotic cells and determined their ability to bind alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH) peptides and increase intracellular cAMP. The mutants Asp84Glu and Asp294His showed a much lower response to alpha-MSH in cAMP and a slightly impaired ability to bind alpha-MSH, and the Val92Met mutant bound alpha-MSH with 100-fold lower affinity as compared with the wild-type. The Arg163Gln variant, widely found in some Asian populations, reached normal level of cAMP response but had just slightly lower potency for alpha-MSH in binding and second messenger studies. The results provide important pharmacological characterization of common MC1 receptor variants in various world populations.

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