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Protection against UV-mediated DNA damage and the onset of oncogenesis is afforded by the tanning response in which UV irradiation triggers melanocytes to increase production of melanin that is then transferred to keratinocytes. A key component of the tanning process is the UV-mediated induction of the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and MC1R genes encoding the alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone and its receptor, respectively, which play a crucial role in pigmentation by regulating the intracellular levels of cAMP. How these genes are regulated in response to UV irradiation is not known. Here we have shown that UV-induced activation of the POMC and MC1R promoters is mediated by p38 stress-activated kinase signaling to the transcription factor, upstream stimulating factor-1 (USF-1). Importantly, melanocytes derived from USF-1 -/- mice exhibit a defective UV response and fail to activate POMC and MC1R expression in response to UV irradiation. The results define USF-1 as a critical UV-responsive activator of genes implicated in protection from solar radiation.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





51226 - 51233


Amino Acid Motifs, Animals, Blotting, Western, Cell Line, Tumor, Chromatin Immunoprecipitation, DNA, DNA Damage, DNA, Complementary, DNA-Binding Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Genes, Reporter, Humans, Luciferases, Melanins, Melanocytes, Mice, Models, Biological, Pigmentation, Pro-Opiomelanocortin, Promoter Regions, Genetic, RNA, Receptors, Pituitary Hormone, Signal Transduction, Spectrophotometry, Sunlight, Time Factors, Transcription Factors, Transcription, Genetic, Transfection, Transgenes, Ultraviolet Rays, Upstream Stimulatory Factors, p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases