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Murase D.,Kao Biological Science Laboratories | Hachiya A.,Kao Biological Science Laboratories | Takano K.,Kao Biological Science Laboratories | Hicks R.,Kao Biological Science Laboratories | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Investigative Dermatology | Year: 2013

Melanin in the epidermis determines the wide variation in skin color associated with ethnic skin diversity. Ethnic differences exist regarding melanosome loss in keratinocytes, but the mechanisms underlying these differences, and their contribution to the regulation of skin color, remain unclear. Here, we explored the involvement of autophagy in determining skin color by regulating melanosome degradation in keratinocytes. Keratinocytes derived from Caucasian skin exhibit higher autophagic activity than those derived from African American (AA) skin. Furthermore, along with the higher autophagy activity in Caucasian skin-derived keratinocytes compared with AA skin-derived keratinocytes, Caucasian skin-derived keratinocytes were more sensitive to melanosome treatment as shown by their enhanced autophagic activity, which may reflect the substantial mechanisms in the human epidermis owing to the limitations of the models. Melanosome accumulation in keratinocytes was accelerated by treatment with lysosomal inhibitors or with small interfering RNAs specific for autophagy-related proteins, which are essential for autophagy. Furthermore, consistent with the alterations in skin appearance, the melanin levels in human skin cultured ex vivo and in human skin substitutes in vitro were substantially diminished by activators of autophagy and enhanced by the inhibitors. Taken together, our data reveal that autophagy has a pivotal role in skin color determination by regulating melanosome degradation in keratinocytes, and thereby contributes to the ethnic diversity of skin color. © 2013 The Society for Investigative Dermatology.

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