The many faces of Notch signaling in skin-derived cells


*Address correspondence to Meenhard Herlyn, e-mail:


Since the cloning of the Drosophila gene in the 1980s, decades of research have sought to dissect the intricacies of the mammalian Notch signaling cascade. The intrigue of this pathway undoubtedly lies in its ability to influence diverse cellular processes, including differentiation, cell fate, homeostasis, survival, proliferation and angiogenesis. Based on its evolutionary conservation and its fundamental role in development, it is not surprising that deregulation of the Notch signaling pathway can result in neoplastic growth. While originally of particular interest to immunologists based on its chief role in influencing T-cell fate decisions and tumor oncogenesis in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, pigment cell biologists have recently taken notice of the Notch cascade based on studies suggesting the importance of this pathway in regulating melanocyte stem cell survival and melanoma progression. We will review the Notch signaling literature as it relates to skin homeostasis, melanocytic stem cells and melanoma tumorigenesis.