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β-Catenin in the Melanocyte Lineage


* Address reprint requests to Lionel Larue, Developmental Genetics of Melanocytes, UMR 146 CNRS-Institut Curie, Bat. 110, 91405, Orsay Cedex, France. E-mail:


β-Catenin is a multifunctional protein involved in cell–cell adhesion, intracellular signalling and gene transcription. It has been implicated in the development of various lineages, including neural crest derivatives. Melanocytes are derived from neural crest cells and β-catenin is expressed throughout the development of this cell lineage. The multifunctional activity of β-catenin is directly associated with its participation in multi protein–protein interactions. The cell–cell adhesion function of β-catenin is mediated by the large cadherin cell adhesion molecule family, the intracellular signalling function by its interaction with GSK3β, and the gene transcription activity by the four known LEF/TCF DNA binding-proteins. Here, we review the known β-catenin interacting factors and targets involved in the development and transformation of melanocytes and in particular its role in the expression of the crucial gene of melanocyte development, Mitf.