• MC1R;
  • melanocytes;
  • sun exposure;
  • melanoma;
  • proliferation


We conducted a clinical trial to compare the molecular and cellular responses of human melanocytes and keratinocytes in vivo to solar-simulated ultraviolet radiation (SSUVR) in 57 Caucasian participants grouped according to MC1R genotype. We found that, on average, the density of epidermal melanocytes 14 days after exposure to 2 minimal erythemal dose (MED) SSUVR was twofold higher than baseline (unirradiated) skin. However, the change in epidermal melanocyte counts among people carrying germline MC1R variants (97% increase) was significantly less than those with wild-type MC1R (164% increase; P = 0.01). We also found that sunscreen applied to the skin before exposure to 2 MED SSUVR completely blocked the effects of DNA damage, p53 induction, and cellular proliferation in both melanocytes and keratinocytes.