The Role of Kit-Ligand in Melanocyte Development and Epidermal Homeostasis


* Address reprint requests to Dr Bernhard Wehrle-Haller, Department of Pathology, Centre Medical Universitaire, (1) Rue Michel-Servet, 1211 Genève 4, Switzerland. E-mail:


Kit-ligand (Kitl) also known as steel factor, stem cell factor and mast cell growth factor plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the melanocyte lineage in adult skin. Kitl exerts permanent survival, proliferation and migration functions in Kit receptor-expressing melanocytes. A comprehensive overview over the differential roles of Kitl in melanocyte development and homeostasis is provided. I discuss species-specific differences of the Kitl/Kit signalling system, regulation at the transcriptional level and also covering the regulation of cell surface Kitl presentation by cytoplasmic targeting sequences. In addition, recent studies evoked the importance of Kitl misexpression in some hyperpigmented lesions that may open the avenue for Kitl-dependent treatment of pathological skin conditions.