Volume 10 (2016) Issue 6 Pages 314-322
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.