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Mol Cell. 2013 Jan 10;49(1):145-57. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.10.027. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

PGC-1 coactivators regulate MITF and the tanning response.

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Cardiovascular Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The production of pigment by melanocytes tans the skin and protects against skin cancers. UV-exposed keratinocytes secrete α-MSH, which then activates melanin formation in melanocytes by inducing the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF). We show that PPAR-γ coactivator (PGC)-1α and PGC-1β are critical components of this melanogenic system in melanocytes. α-MSH signaling strongly induces PGC-1α expression and stabilizes both PGC-1α and PGC-1β proteins. The PGC-1s in turn activate the MITF promoter, and their expression correlates strongly with that of MITF in human melanoma cell lines and biopsy specimens. Inhibition of PGC-1α and PGC-1β blocks the α-MSH-mediated induction of MITF and melanogenic genes. Conversely, overexpression of PGC-1α induces pigment formation in cell culture and transgenic animals. Finally, polymorphism studies reveal expression quantitative trait loci in the PGC-1β gene that correlate with tanning ability and protection from melanoma in humans. These data identify PGC-1 coactivators as regulators of human tanning.

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