Rac and rho: the story behind melanocyte dendrite formation

Pigment Cell Res. 2002 Oct;15(5):322-30. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0749.2002.02056.x.


Melanocyte dendrites are hormonally responsive actin and microtubule containing structures whose primary purpose is to transport melanosomes to the dendrite tip. Melanocyte dendrites have been an area of intense interest for melanocyte biologists, but it was not until recently that we began to understand the mechanisms underlying their formation. In contrast with melanogenesis, for which numerous mutations in pigment producing genes and mouse models have been identified, a genetic defect resulting in impaired dendrite formation has not been found. Therefore, much of the insight into melanocyte dendrites has come from electron microscopy or in vitro culture systems of normal human and murine melanocytes as well as melanoma cell lines. The growth factors that regulate the formation of melanocyte dendrites have been thoroughly studied and it is clear that multiple signalling systems are able to stimulate, and in some cases inhibit, dendrite formation. Recent data points to the Rho family of small guanosine triphosphate (GTP)-binding proteins as master regulators of dendrite formation, particularly Rac and Rho. In this review I will summarize the progress scientists have made in understanding the structure, hormonal regulation and molecular mediators of melanocyte dendrite formation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / growth & development*
  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Melanocytes / cytology
  • Melanocytes / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Hormones
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins