The unfolded protein response in melanocytes: activation in response to chemical stressors of the endoplasmic reticulum and tyrosinase misfolding


Prashiela Manga, e-mail:


Accumulation of proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) triggers the unfolded protein response (UPR), comprising three signaling pathways initiated by Ire1, Perk and Atf6 respectively. Unfolded protein response activation was compared in chemically stressed murine wildtype melanocytes and mutant melanocytes that retain tyrosinase in the ER. Thapsigargin, an ER stressor, activated all pathways in wildtype melanocytes, triggering Caspase 12-mediated apoptosis at toxic doses. Albino melanocytes expressing mutant tyrosinase showed evidence of ER stress with increased Ire1 expression, but the downstream effector, Xbp1, was not activated even following thapsigargin treatment. Attenuation of Ire1 signaling was recapitulated in wildtype melanocytes treated with thapsigargin for 8 days, with diminished Xbp1 activation observed after 4 days. Atf6 was also activated in albino melanocytes, with no response to thapsigargin, while the Perk pathway was not activated and thapsigargin treatment elicited robust expression of the downstream effector CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein homologous protein. Thus, melanocytes adapt to ER stress by attenuating two UPR pathways.