Melanin protects melanocytes and keratinocytes against H2O 2-induced DNA strand breaks through its ability to bind Ca 2+

M. J. Hoogduijn*, E. Cemeli, K. Ross, D. Anderson, A. J. Thody, J. M. Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide (H 2O2) are produced in the skin under the influence of UV radiation. These compounds are highly reactive and can induce DNA lesions in epidermal cells. Melanin is considered to protect human skin against DNA damage by absorbing UV radiation. We have investigated whether melanin can, in addition, offer protection against the effects of H2O2 in human melanocytes and HaCaT keratinocytes. In the present study, it was shown that 40 and 100 μM H2O2 increased the number of DNA strand breaks as measured using the comet assay, in melanocytes of Caucasian origin. In melanocytes of the same origin in which melanin levels were increased by culturing in presence of 10 mM NH4Cl and elevated L-tyrosine, H2O2-induced DNA damage was reduced compared to that in control melanocytes. Similarly, HaCaT cells that were loaded with melanin were better protected against H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks than control HaCaT cells. These protective effects of melanin were mimicked by the intracellular Ca2+-chelator BAPTA. Thus, BAPTA reduced the level of H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks in melanocytes. Like BAPTA, melanin is known to be a potent chelator of Ca 2+ and this was confirmed in the present study. It was shown that melanin levels in melanocytic cells correlated directly with intracellular Ca2+ binding capacity and, in addition, correlated inversely with H2O2-induced increases in intracellular Ca2+. Our results show that melanin may have an important role in regulating intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis and it is suggested that melanin protects against H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks in both melanocytes and keratinocytes and through its ability to bind Ca2+.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-67
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Stiefel International. Eduardo Cemeli was supported by a Leonardo Da Vinci grant from CAEB (Balearic Islands, Spain), Kehinde Ross by the Psoriasis Association.


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