Archives of Dermatological Research

, Volume 310, Issue 3, pp 187–196 | Cite as

The stem cell factor-stimulated melanogenesis in human melanocytes can be abrogated by interrupting the phosphorylation of MSK1: evidence for involvement of the p38/MSK1/CREB/MITF axis

  • Takao Niwano
  • Shuko Terazawa
  • Hiroaki Nakajima
  • Genji Imokawa
Original Paper


We recently found that treatment of normal human melanocytes (NHMs) with the antioxidant astaxanthin (AX) suppresses the stem cell factor (SCF)-stimulated protein expression levels of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) at 1.5 h and of tyrosinase and endothelin B receptor at 96 h post-treatment. Analysis of the signaling cascade(s) involved revealed that although the major SCF-activated signaling cascade that leads to CREB activation (the c-KIT/Shc/Raf-1/ERK/RSK/CREB axis) is not interrupted, the increased phosphorylation of CREB is significantly abrogated by AX. We show for the first time that treatment of NHMs with SCF activates the p38/mitogen and stress-activated kinase (MSK1) axis in a c-KIT dependent fashion. Interestingly, whereas AX does not abrogate the SCF-induced activation of p38, it does affect the increased phosphorylation of its downstream target, MSK1. The lineage connection of p38/MSK1 activation with CREB activation and its associated MITF expression is supported by our finding that while silencing MSK1 abolishes the activation of CREB and the subsequent increase in total MITF proteins at 15 min and at 1.5 h, respectively, post-stimulation with SCF, inhibitors of p38 and of MSK1 abrogate the SCF-induced increase in total MITF proteins at 1.5 h post-stimulation. These findings suggest that SCF-stimulated melanogenesis can be abrogated by interrupting MSK1 phosphorylation, providing evidence for involvement of the p38/MSK1/CREB/MITF axis, providing new evidence for the ROS depletion independent interruption by antioxidants of SCF-triggered signaling.


Stem cell factor Mitogen and stress-activated kinase Astaxanthin p38 MAP kinase Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Bioscience Research and EducationUtsunomiya UniversityTochigiJapan
  2. 2.School of Bioscience and BiotechnologyTokyo University of TechnologyTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Research Institute for Biological FunctionsChubu UniversityAichiJapan

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