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Melanin Distribution in Human Skin: Influence of Cytoskeletal, Polarity, and Centrosome-Related Machinery of Stratum basale Keratinocytes

Melanin granules cluster within supra-nuclear caps in basal keratinocytes (KCs) of the human epidermis, where they protect KC genomic DNA against ultraviolet radiation (UVR) damage. While much is known about melanogenesis in melanocytes (MCs) and a moderate amount about melanin transfer from MC to KC, we know little about the fate of melanin once inside KCs. We recently reported that melanin fate in progenitor KCs is regulated by rare asymmetric organelle movement during mitosis. Here, we explore the role of actin, microtubules, and centrosome-associated machinery in distributing melanin within KCs. Short-term cultures of human skin explants were treated with cytochalasin-B and nocodazole to target actin filaments and microtubules, respectively. Treatment effects on melanin distribution were assessed by the Warthin-Starry stain, on centrosome-associated proteins by immunofluorescence microscopy, and on co-localisation with melanin granules by brightfield microscopy. Cytochalasin-B treatment disassembled supra-nuclear melanin caps, while nocodazole treatment moved melanin from the apical to basal KC domain. Centrosome and centriolar satellite-associated proteins showed a high degree of co-localisation with melanin. Thus, once melanin granules are transferred to KCs, their preferred apical distribution appears to be facilitated by coordinated movement of centrosomes and centriolar satellites. This mechanism may control melanin's strategic position within UVR-exposed KCs.

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