Endocannabinoids stimulate human melanogenesis via type-1 cannabinoid receptor

Mariangela Pucci, Nicoletta Pasquariello, Natalia Battista, Monia Di Tommaso, Cinzia Rapino, Filomena Fezza, Michela Zuccolo, Roland Jourdain, Alessandro Finazzi Agrò, Lionel Breton, Mauro Maccarrone
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2012 May 4, 287 (19): 15466-78
We show that a fully functional endocannabinoid system is present in primary human melanocytes (normal human epidermal melanocyte cells), including anandamide (AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol, the respective target receptors (CB(1), CB(2), and TRPV1), and their metabolic enzymes. We also show that at higher concentrations AEA induces normal human epidermal melanocyte apoptosis (∼3-fold over controls at 5 μM) through a TRPV1-mediated pathway that increases DNA fragmentation and p53 expression. However, at lower concentrations, AEA and other CB(1)-binding endocannabinoids dose-dependently stimulate melanin synthesis and enhance tyrosinase gene expression and activity (∼3- and ∼2-fold over controls at 1 μM). This CB(1)-dependent activity was fully abolished by the selective CB(1) antagonist SR141716 or by RNA interference of the receptor. CB(1) signaling engaged p38 and p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinases, which in turn activated the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein and the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor. Silencing of tyrosinase or microphthalmia-associated transcription factor further demonstrated the involvement of these proteins in AEA-induced melanogenesis. In addition, CB(1) activation did not engage the key regulator of skin pigmentation, cyclic AMP, showing a major difference compared with the regulation of melanogenesis by α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone through melanocortin 1 receptor.

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