Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Skin As A Living Coloring Book

Date:
September 13, 2007
Source:
Massachusetts General Hospital
Summary:
The pigment melanin, which is responsible for skin and hair color in mammals, is produced in specialized cells called melanocytes and then distributed to other cells. But not every cell in the complex layers of skin becomes pigmented. The question of how melanin is delivered to appropriate locations may have been answered by a new study.

Melanin, which is responsible for skin and hair color in humans and other mammals, is produced in specialized cells called melanocytes and then distributed to other cells. The question of how the pigment is delivered to appropriate locations may now have been answered.
Credit: iStockphoto/Steven Dern

The pigment melanin, which is responsible for skin and hair color in mammals, is produced in specialized cells called melanocytes and then distributed to other cells. But not every cell in the complex layers of skin becomes pigmented. The question of how melanin is delivered to appropriate locations may have been answered by a study from researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cutaneous Biology Research Center (CBRC).

"Pigment recipient cells essentially tell melanocytes where to deposit melanin, and the pattern of those recipients determines pigment patterns," says Janice Brissette, PhD, who led the study. "Recipient cells act like the outlines in a child's coloring book; as recipient cells develop, they form a 'picture' that is initially colorless but is then 'colored in' by the melanocytes."

In humans, melanin is deposited in both the skin and the hair; but in some other mammals such as mice, melanin is primarily deposited in the coat, leaving the skin beneath the coat unpigmented. Melanocytes deposit melanin via cellular extensions called dendrites that reach out to other cells in the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) or the hair follicles. But the mechanism determining whether melanin is delivered to a particular cell has been unknown.

The MGH-CBRC researchers theorized that a mouse gene known as Foxn1 might play a role. Lack of Foxn1 is responsible for so-called 'nude mice,' which have hair that is so brittle it breaks off, resulting in virtually total hairlessness, and other defects of the skin. A similar phenomenon exists in humans with inactivation of the corresponding gene.

When the researchers developed a strain of transgenic mice in which Foxn1 is misexpressed in cells that do not usually contain melanin, they found those normally colorless areas became pigmented. Examining the skin of the transgenic mice revealed that melanocytes were contacting and delivering melanin to the cells in which Foxn1 was abnormally activated. No pigment was observed in the corresponding tissues of normal mice. Examination of human skin samples showed that the human version of Foxn1 was also expressed in cells known to be pigment recipients. Further experiments revealed that Foxn1 signals melanocytes through a protein called Fgf2, levels of which rise as Foxn1 expression increases.

"Foxn1 makes epithelial cells into pigment recipients, which attract melanocytes and stimulate pigment transfer, engineering their own pigmentation," says Brissette, an associate professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School. She and her colleagues note that the Foxn1/Fgf2 pathway probably has additional functions in the skin and that it is probably not the only pathway responsible for the targeting of pigment.

"We know that Foxn1 and Fgf2 act in concert with other factors and function within a larger network of genes. Our next step will be to identify other genes that can confer the pigment recipient phenotype or control the targeting of pigment," Brissette adds. Her research may eventually be relevant to disorders such as vitiligo -- in which pigment disappears from patches of skin -- age spots, the greying of hair and even the deadly melanocyte-based skin cancer melanoma.

The report appears in the Sept. 7 issue of Cell.

The co-first authors of the Cell report are Lorin Weiner, PhD, and Rong Han, PhD, both of the MGH-CBRC. Additional co-authors are Jian Li, PhD, Kiyotaka Hasegawa, MS, and David Lee, MGH-CBRC; Bianca Scicchitano, PhD, now at La Sapienza/University of Rome; and Maddalena Grossi, PhD, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and by the CBRC.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts General Hospital. "Skin As A Living Coloring Book." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070906132823.htm>.
Massachusetts General Hospital. (2007, September 13). Skin As A Living Coloring Book. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070906132823.htm
Massachusetts General Hospital. "Skin As A Living Coloring Book." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070906132823.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins