Research ArticleIon Channels

TRPM1 Forms Ion Channels Associated with Melanin Content in Melanocytes

Science Signaling  12 May 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 70, pp. ra21
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2000146

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A Melanocyte Channel

TRPM1 (also known as melastatin), a protein that is primarily found in cells that produce the pigment melanin, has a molecular structure resembling that of other members of the transient receptor potential (TRP) family of cation channels. TRPM1 has not previously been shown to carry current, however, and its function remains unknown. Oancea et al. identified two previously unrecognized TRPM1 splice variants and showed that they mediate current when expressed in human melanoma cells. Moreover, they found endogenous TRPM1-mediated currents in melanocytes and melanoma cells. When fluorescently labeled TRPM1 was heterologously expressed in human embryonic kidney or melanoma cell lines it primarily localized to intracellular vesicular structures, suggesting that its major function may be intracellular. Intriguingly, TRPM1 expression in melanocytes correlated with melanin content, leading the authors to postulate that it may play a role in melanocyte pigmentation.

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