Drug Discov Ther. 2016;10(6):314-322. (DOI: 10.5582/ddt.2016.01062)

The serum/PDGF-dependent "melanogenic" role of the minute level of the oncogenic kinase PAK1 in melanoma cells proven by the highly sensitive kinase assay.

Be Tu PT, Nguyen BCQ, Tawata S, Yun CY, Kim EG, Maruta H


We previously demonstrated that the oncogenic kinase PAK4, which both melanomas and normal melanocytes express at a very high level, is essential for their melanogenesis. In the present study, using the highly sensitive "Macaroni-Western" (IP-ATP-Glo) kinase assay, we investigated the melanogenic potential of another oncogenic kinase PAK1, which melanoma (B16F10) cells express only at a very minute level. After transfecting melanoma cells with PAK1-shRNA for silencing PAK1 gene, melanin content, tyrosinase activity, and kinase activity of PAK1 were compared between the wild-type and transfectants. We found that (i) PAK1 is significantly activated by melanogenic hormones such as IBMX (3-isobutyl-1-methyl xanthine) and α-MSH (melanocyte-stimulating hormone), (ii) silencing the endogenous PAK1 gene in melanoma cells through PAK1-specific shRNA reduces both melanin content and tyrosinase activity in the presence of both serum and melanogenic hormones to the basal level, (iii) the exogenously added wild-type PAK1 in the melanoma cells boosts the α-MSH-inducible melanin level by several folds without affecting the basal, and (iv) α-MSH/IBMX-induced melanogenesis hardly takes place in the absence of either serum or PAK1, clearly indicating that PAK1 is essential mainly for serum- and α-MSH/IBMX-dependent melanogenesis, but not the basal, in melanoma cells. The outcome of this study might provide the first scientific basis for explaining why a wide variety of herbal PAK1-blockers such as CAPE (caffeic acid phenethyl ester), curcumin and shikonin in cosmetics are useful for skin-whitening.

KEYWORDS: PAK1, melanogenesis, melanomas, tyrosinase, MITF, skin-whitening, serum

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