• melanocortin 1 receptor;
  • N-glycosylation;
  • MC1R variants;
  • trafficking;
  • functional coupling


The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), a major determinant of skin pigmentation and phototype, mediates the actions of α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone on melanocytes and is critical for melanocyte proliferation and differentiation. MC1R has two putative N-glycosylation targets, Asn15 and Asn29. It has been shown that MC1R is a glycoprotein with an unusual sensitivity to endoglycosidase H digestion. However, the occupancy and functional importance of each specific glycosylation sequon remains unknown. We demonstrate that MC1R is N-glycosylated at Asn15 and Asn29, with structurally and functionally different glycan chains. N-glycosylation is not necessary for high affinity agonist binding or functional coupling but has a strong effect on the availability of MC1R molecules on the plasma membrane, most likely by a combination of improved forward trafficking and decreased internalization. Finally, we found that MC1R variants exhibit different degrees of glycosylation which do not show a simple correlation with their functional status or intracellular trafficking.