Melanin and melanogenesis in adipose tissue: possible mechanisms for abating oxidative stress and inflammation?

Authors

  • S. Page,

    1. Department of Molecular and Microbiology, College of Science, George Mason University, Fairfax
    2. Center for Liver Diseases, Inova Fairfax Hospital, Falls Church, VA, USA
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  • V. Chandhoke,

    1. Department of Molecular and Microbiology, College of Science, George Mason University, Fairfax
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  • A. Baranova

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Molecular and Microbiology, College of Science, George Mason University, Fairfax
    2. Center for Liver Diseases, Inova Fairfax Hospital, Falls Church, VA, USA
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Professor Ancha Baranova, Molecular Biology and Microbiology, David King Hall, MSN 3E1, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA. E-mail: abaranov@gmu.edu

Summary

Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic and can lead to multiple chronic diseases. Adipose tissue is increasingly thought to play an active role in obesity-related pathologies such as insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Obesity has been strongly associated with systemic inflammation and, to a lesser degree, with oxidative stress, although the causal relationships among these factors are unclear. A recent study demonstrating an expression of the components of the melanogenic pathway and the presence of melanin in visceral adipose has raised questions regarding the possible role of melanogenesis in adipose tissue. As this study also found larger amounts of melanin in the adipose tissue of obese patients relative to lean ones, we hypothesize that melanin, a pigment known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may scavenge reactive oxygen species and abate oxidative stress and inflammation in adipose tissue. This review considers the evidence to support such a hypothesis, and speculates on the role of melanin within adipocytes. Furthermore, we consider whether the α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone or its synthetic analogues could be used to stimulate melanin production in adipocytes, should the hypothesis be supported in future experiments.

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