Melanocyte homeostasis in vivo tolerates Rb1 loss in a developmentally independent fashion


Dr Ian Tonks, e-mail:


There has been uncertainty regarding the precise role that the pocket protein Rb1 plays in murine melanocyte homeostasis. It has been reported that the TAT-Cre mediated loss of exon 19 from a floxed Rb1 allele causes melanocyte apoptosis in vivo and in vitro. This is at variance with other findings showing, either directly or indirectly, that Rb1 loss in melanocytes has no noticeable effect in vivo, but in vitro leads to a semi-transformed phenotype. In this study, we show that Rb1-null melanocytes lacking exon 19 do not undergo apoptosis and survive both in vitro and in vivo, irrespective of the developmental stage at which Cre-mediated ablation of the exon occurs. Further, Rb1 loss has no serious long-term ramifications on melanocyte homeostasis in vivo, with Rb1-null melanocytes being detected in the skin after numerous hair cycles, inferring that the melanocyte stem cell population carrying the Cre-mediated deletion is maintained. Consequently, whilst Rb1 loss in the melanocyte is able to alter cellular behaviour in vitro, it appears inconsequential with respect to melanocyte homeostasis in the mouse skin.