Melanocytes are melanin-producing cells found in skin, hair follicles, eyes, inner ear, bones, heart and brain of humans. They arise from pluripotent neural crest cells and differentiate in response to a complex network of interacting regulatory pathways. Melanins are pigment molecules that are endogenously synthesized by melanocytes. The light absorption of melanin in skin and hair leads to photoreceptor shielding, thermoregulation, photoprotection, camouflage and display coloring. Melanins are also powerful cation chelators and may act as free radical sinks. Melanin formation is a product of complex biochemical events that starts from amino acid tyrosine and its metabolite, dopa. The types and amounts of melanin produced by melanocytes are determined genetically and are influenced by a variety of extrinsic and intrinsic factors such as hormonal changes, inflammation, age and exposure to UV light. These stimuli affect the different pathways in melanogenesis. In this review we will discuss the regulatory mechanisms involved in melanogenesis and explain how intrinsic and extrinsic factors regulate melanin production. We will also explain the regulatory roles of different proteins involved in melanogenesis.
Keywords: MITF; melanogenesis; signaling pathways in melanogenesis; tyrosinase.