Background: Melanosomes are specialized membrane-surrounded organelles, which are involved in the synthesis, storage and transport of melanin. Glycoprotein (transmembrane) non-metastatic melanoma protein b (GPNMB), a melanosome-specific structural protein, shares significant amino acid sequence homology with Pmel-17. Proteomic analysis demonstrated that GPNMB is present in all stages (I-IV) of melanosomes. However, little is known about the role of GPNMB in melanosomes.
Methodology/principal findings: Using real-time quantitative PCR, Western blotting and immunofluorescence analysis, we demonstrated that the expression of GPNMB in PIG1 melanocytes was up-regulated by ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. Transmission electron microscopy analysis showed that the total number of melanosomes in PIG1 melanocytes was sharply reduced by GPNMB-siRNA transfection. Simultaneously, the expression levels of tyrosinase (Tyr), tyrosinase related protein 1 (Trp1), Pmel17/gp100 and ocular albinism type 1 protein (OA1) were all significantly attenuated. But the expression of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) was up-regulated. Intriguingly, in GPNMB silenced PIG1 melanocytes, UVB radiation sharply reduced MITF expression.
Conclusion: Our present work revealed that the GPNMB was critical for the formation of melanosomes. And GPNMB expression down-regulation attenuated melanosome formation in a MITF-independent fashion.