Regulation of UV induced apoptosis in human melanocytes
Sammanfattning: Malignant melanoma arises from the pigment producing melanocytes in epidermis and is the most aggressive type of skin cancer. The incidence of malignant melanoma is increasing faster than any other type of cancer in white population worldwide, with a doubling rate every 10-20 years. So far, the only identified external risk factor for malignant melanoma is UV exposure. Elimination of photodamaged cells by apoptosis (programmed cell death) is essential to prevent tumor formation. Melanocytes are considered relatively resistant to apoptosis, however, the regulation of apoptosis in melanocytes is still unknown.The aim of this thesis was to investigate the apoptotic process following ultraviolet (UV) irradiation in primary cultures of human melanocytes. Focus was on regulation of mitochondrial stability by Bcl-2 family proteins and the possible participation of lysosomal proteases, cathepsins. UV irradiation activated the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis, leading to cytochrome c release, caspase activation, and nuclear fragmentation. No change in protein expression of Bax and Bcl-2 was observed in response to UV. Instead, translocation of the Bcl-2 family proteins from cytosol to mitochondia was important in the regulation of survival and death of melanocytes. The findings further demonstrated permeabilization of the lysosomal membrane to occur early in the apoptotic process, resulting in cathepsin release into the cytosol. The cathepsins were potent pro-apoptotic mediators and triggered apoptosis upstream of Bax translocation and mitochondrial membrane permeabilization. In response to both heat and UV irradiation, there was a marked increase in expression of stress-induced heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70), which inhibited apoptosis by binding lysosomal and mitochondrial membranes and counteracting the release of cathepsins and cytochrome c. Furthermore, UV irradiation activated c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), which triggered apoptosis upstream of cathepsins release from the lysosomes. In addition, JNK mediated apoptosis through phosphorylation of pro-apoptotic Bim, which was released from anti-apoptotic Mcl-1, by UV induced Mcl-1 depletion.This thesis illustrates that permeabilization of mitochondria and lysosomes and release of their constituents to the cytosol participates in UV induced apoptosis signaling in human melanocytes in vitro. The process is regulated by a complex network of pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins, exerting their effects through intracellular translocation and alteration of protein expression.
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