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Although previous studies have examined the signaling pathway involved in melanogenesis through which ultraviolet (UV) or α-melanocyte-stimulating hormones (α-MSH) stimuli act as key inducers to produce melanin at the stratum basal layer of the epidermis, the signaling pathway regulating melanogenesis is still controversial. This study reports that α-MSH, not UVA and UVB, acted as a major stimulus of melanogenesis in B16F10 melanoma cells. Signaling pathway analysis using gene knockdown technology and chemical inhibitors, the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/p90 ribosomal S6 kinase 2 (RSK2) played an important role in melanogenesis. Unexpectedly, LY294002, a PI3K inhibitor, increased melanogenesis without UV or α-MSH stimulation, suggesting that the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway may not be a major signaling pathway for melanogenesis. Chemical inhibition of the MEKs/ERKs/RSK2 signaling pathway using U0126 or BI-D1870 suppressed melanogenesis by stimulation of UVA or α-MSH stimulation, or both. In particular, the genetic depletion of RSK2 or constitutive active (CA)-RSK2 overexpression showed that RSK2 plays a key role in melanogenesis. Interestingly, forkhead box protein O4 (FOXO4) was phosphorylated by RSK2, resulting in the increase of FOXO4’s transactivation activity. Notably, the FOXO4 mutant harboring serine-to-alanine replacement at the phosphorylation sites totally abrogated the transactivation activity and reduced melanin production, indicating that RSK2-mediated FOXO4 activity plays a key role in melanogenesis. Furthermore, kaempferol, a flavonoid inhibiting the RSK2 activity, suppressed melanogenesis. In addition, FOXO4-wt overexpression showed that FOXO4 enhance melanin synthesis. Overall, the RSK2-FOXO4 signaling pathway plays a key role in modulating melanogenesis.


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Scientific Reports



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Immunology and Microbiology



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