eISSN: 2299-0046
ISSN: 1642-395X
Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postępy Dermatologii i Alergologii
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vol. 40
Original paper

NO-induced apoptosis in human melanocytes from lightly and darkly pigmented skin

Łukasz Marek
Irena Tam
Sławomir Kurkiewicz
Paulina Borkowska
Anna Dzierżęga-Lęcznar

Department of Instrumental Analysis, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Sosnowiec, Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland
Department of Medical Genetics, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Sosnowiec, Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland
Adv Dermatol Allergol 2023; XL (2): 259-267
Online publish date: 2023/03/20
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Nitric oxide (NO) is a potent modulator of programmed cell death, with the ability to both induce and prevent apoptosis. Some of the factors that are capable of triggering apoptosis of skin cells also cause NO overproduction in the epidermis. Unlike keratinocytes, melanin-producing melanocytes are highly resistant to apoptotic death. Aim: To investigate whether NO can induce apoptosis in normal human epidermal melanocytes and whether the pigmentation phenotype of the cells can affect their response to NO.

Material and methods:
Human epidermal melanocytes, derived from lightly and darkly pigmented neonatal foreskins, were cultured in the presence of various concentrations of SPER/NO. The effect of NO released from its donor on the cell morphology, viability, and proliferation was assessed. The ability of NO to induce cell apoptosis was evaluated by Hoechst 33342 staining, DNA fragmentation assay, flow cytometry with annexin V and propidium iodide staining, determination of caspase 3/7, 8, and 9 activities, and assessment of changes in the cell expression levels of BAX and BCL-2.

We have shown that NO is capable of inducing apoptosis in normal human epidermal melanocytes in vitro, with preferential activation of the intrinsic (mitochondrial) pathway. Melanocytes from darkly pigmented skin showed a strong increase in BCL-2 expression in response to NO and were significantly more resistant to apoptosis than those from lightly pigmented skin.

The pigmentation phenotype may be an important factor modulating the response of human epidermal melanocytes to proapoptotic activity of extracellular NO.


nitric oxide, apoptosis, melanocyte, pigmentation phenotype, Bcl-2

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