To understand the signalling mechanisms involved in the dual stimulatory effects of endothelin-1 (ET-1) on DNA synthesis and melanization in cultured human melanocytes, we analysed the biological profile of ET-1 receptor and determined the effects of ET-1 on the protein kinase C, cyclic AMP system and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP kinase) in comparison with their relevant simulants. The photoaffinity labelling of ET-1 receptors with Denny–Jaff reagents revealed an ET-1 receptor with a molecular mass of 51 kDa in human melanocytes. The ETA receptor subtype-sensitive antagonist BQ123 (50 nM) or pertussis toxin (100 ng/ml) significantly suppressed the ET-1-induced intracellular calcium mobilization, indicating the presence of pertussis toxin-sensitive G-protein-coupled ETA receptors. An assay of protein kinase C activity revealed that 10 nM ET-1 translocated cytosolic protein kinase C to membrane-bound protein kinase C within 5 min of the start of incubation. In contrast, receptor-mediated melanocyte activation by ET-1 was accompanied by an elevated level of cyclic AMP (4-fold over control) after 10–60 min of incubation, whereas 60 min of incubation of human melanocytes with c-Kit or c-Met ligands such as stem cell factor (10 nM) or basic fibroblast growth factor (10 nM) did not elevate the cyclic AMP level. We have also demonstrated that a specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor, tyrphostin B-42 (10 μM), inhibited the ET-1-induced growth stimulation, suggesting the involvement of the tyrosine kinase pathway in growth stimulation. Consistently, an assay of MAP kinase revealed that ET-1 caused a 10-fold activation of MAP kinase after 5 min of incubation with human melanocytes in a similar way to tyrosine kinase ligands such as stem cell factor and hepatocyte growth factor. Further, the DNA synthesis stimulated by the c-Kit ligand stem cell factor at a concentration of 1 nM was synergistically enhanced by 5 nM ET-1. These results suggest that ET-induced dual cellular events in human melanocytes are closely associated with cross-talk between the protein kinase C and A and tyrosine kinase pathways.

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