Ca2+ transients in melanocyte dendrites and dendritic spine-like structures evoked by cell-to-cell signaling

J Cell Biol. 2020 Jan 6;219(1):e201902014. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201902014.


Melanocytes are the neural crest-derived pigment-producing cells of the skin that possess dendrites. Yet little is known about how melanocyte dendrites receive and process information from neighboring cells. Here, using a co-culture system to interrogate the interaction between melanocyte dendrites and keratinocytes, we show that signals from neighboring keratinocytes trigger local compartmentalized Ca2+ transients within the melanocyte dendrites. The localized dendritic Ca2+ transients could be triggered by two keratinocyte-secreted factors, endothelin and acetylcholine, which acted via specific melanocyte receptors. Furthermore, compartmentalized Ca2+ transients were also generated on discrete dendritic spine-like structures on the melanocytes. These spines were also present in intact human skin. Our findings provide insights into how melanocyte dendrites communicate with neighboring cells and offer a new model system for studying compartmentalized signaling in dendritic structures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cell Communication*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Melanocytes / cytology
  • Melanocytes / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Calcium