Seiberg, M., Paine, C., Sharlow, E., Andrade-Gordon, P., Costanzo, M., Eisinger, M., Shapiro, S.S. Skin Research Center, Johnson & Johnson CPWW, Skillman, NJ, 08558 USA.

Close association exists between melanocytes, the pigment melanin-producing cells in the body, and their neighboring keratinocytes. Keratinocytes are the pigment recipients and skin pigmentation is the result of this interaction. While the chemical basis of melanin production (melanogenesis) is well documented, the molecular mechanism of melanosome transfer needs to be elucidated. We are now providing first evidence that the protease-activated receptor 2 (PAR-2) expressed on keratinocytes, but not on melanocytes, is involved in melanosome transfer and therefore may regulate pigmentation. Activation of PAR-2 with trypsin or with the peptide agonist SLIGRL induced pigmentation in both two- and three-dimensional cocultures of keratinocytes and melanocytes, but not in cocultures that were spatially separated, indicating the need for intimate cell-cell contact. Topical application of SLIGRL on human skin transplanted on SCID mice resulted in a visible skin darkening. Histological examination revealed increased deposits of melanin in the keratinocytes. Inhibition of PAR-2 activation by RWJ-50353, a serine protease inhibitor, resulted in depigmentation and changes in expression of melanogenic-specific genes. Keratinocyte- melanocyte contact was essential for this depigmenting effect. Topical application of this inhibitor induced lightening of the dark skin Yucatan swine, which was confirmed by histochemical analysis. The results presented here suggest a novel mechanism for the regulation of pigmentation, mediated by the activation or inhibition of the keratinocyte receptor PAR-2.


EpiDerm, MelanoDerm, Melanogenesis, Melanosome transfer, PAR-2, Phototoxicity, Pigmentation, Protease-activated receptor 2 (PAR 2), SLIGRL, Sun screens, UVA, UVB

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