The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is a melanocytic Gs protein coupled receptor that regulates skin pigmentation, UV responses, and melanoma risk. It is a highly polymorphic gene, and loss of function correlates with a fair, UV-sensitive, and melanoma-prone phenotype due to defective epidermal melanization and sub-optimal DNA repair. MC1R signaling, achieved through adenylyl cyclase activation and generation of the second messenger cAMP, is hormonally controlled by the positive agonist melanocortin, the negative agonist agouti signaling protein, and the neutral antagonist β-defensin 3. Activation of cAMP signaling up-regulates melanin production and deposition in the epidermis which functions to limit UV penetration into the skin and enhances nucleotide excision repair (NER), the genomic stability pathway responsible for clearing UV photolesions from DNA to avoid mutagenesis. Herein we review MC1R structure and function and summarize our laboratory’s findings on the molecular mechanisms by which MC1R signaling impacts NER.

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Published in Frontiers in Genetics, v. 7, article 95, p. 1-16.

Copyright © 2016 Wolf Horrell, Boulanger and D’Orazio.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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We are grateful for support from the National Cancer Institute (R01 CA131075), the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) and the Regina Drury Endowment for Pediatric Research as well as T32CA165990 which supported EMW.