Pharmacologic induction of epidermal melanin and protection against sunburn in a humanized mouse model

Alexandra Amaro-Ortiz, Jillian C. Vanover, Timothy L. Scott, John A. D'Orazio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Fairness of skin, UV sensitivity and skin cancer risk all correlate with the physiologic function of the melanocortin 1 receptor, a Gs-coupled signaling protein found on the surface of melanocytes. Mc1r stimulates adenylyl cyclase and cAMP production which, in turn, up-regulates melanocytic production of melanin in the skin. In order to study the mechanisms by which Mc1r signaling protects the skin against UV injury, this study relies on a mouse model with humanized skin based on epidermal expression of stem cell factor (Scf). K14-Scf transgenic mice retain melanocytes in the epidermis and therefore have the ability to deposit melanin in the epidermis. In this animal model, wild type Mc1r status results in robust deposition of black eumelanin pigment and a UV-protected phenotype. In contrast, K14-Scf animals with defective Mc1r signaling ability exhibit a red/blonde pigmentation, very little eumelanin in the skin and a UV-sensitive phenotype. Reasoning that eumelanin deposition might be enhanced by topical agents that mimic Mc1r signaling, we found that direct application of forskolin extract to the skin of Mc1r-defective fair-skinned mice resulted in robust eumelanin induction and UV protection 1. Here we describe the method for preparing and applying a forskolin-containing natural root extract to K14-Scf fair-skinned mice and report a method for measuring UV sensitivity by determining minimal erythematous dose (MED). Using this animal model, it is possible to study how epidermal cAMP induction and melanization of the skin affect physiologic responses to UV exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere50670
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number79
StatePublished - 2013


  • Forskolin
  • Inflammation
  • Issue 79
  • Mc1r
  • Mean erythematous dose
  • Medicine
  • Melanin
  • Melanocortin 1 receptor
  • Melanocyte
  • Photometry
  • Skin
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Skin pigmentation
  • Sunburn
  • UV
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • cAMP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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