Keratinocyte cadherin desmoglein 1 controls melanocyte behavior through paracrine signaling

Christopher R. Arnette, Quinn R. Roth-Carter, Jennifer L. Koetsier, Joshua A. Broussard, Hope E. Burks, Kathleen Cheng, Christine Amadi, Pedram Gerami, Jodi L. Johnson*, Kathleen J. Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The epidermis is the first line of defense against ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. Keratinocytes and melanocytes respond to UV exposure by eliciting a tanning response dependent in part on paracrine signaling, but how keratinocyte:melanocyte communication is regulated during this response remains understudied. Here, we uncover a surprising new function for the keratinocyte-specific cell–cell adhesion molecule desmoglein 1 (Dsg1) in regulating keratinocyte:melanocyte paracrine signaling to promote the tanning response in the absence of UV exposure. Melanocytes within Dsg1-silenced human skin equivalents exhibited increased pigmentation and altered dendrite morphology, phenotypes which were confirmed in 2D culture using conditioned media from Dsg1-silenced keratinocytes. Dsg1-silenced keratinocytes increased melanocyte-stimulating hormone precursor (Pomc) and cytokine mRNA. Melanocytes cultured in media conditioned by Dsg1-silenced keratinocytes increased Mitf and Tyrp1 mRNA, TYRP1 protein, and melanin production and secretion. Melanocytes in Dsg1-silenced skin equivalents mislocalized suprabasally, reminiscent of early melanoma pagetoid behavior. Together with our previous report that UV reduces Dsg1 expression, these data support a role for Dsg1 in controlling keratinocyte:melanocyte paracrine communication and raise the possibility that a Dsg1-deficient niche contributes to pagetoid behavior, such as occurs in early melanoma development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-317
Number of pages13
JournalPigment Cell and Melanoma Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • desmosomes
  • environment
  • keratinocytes
  • melanocytes
  • melanoma
  • skin
  • sunlight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Oncology


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