UDP-GlcNAc-1-phosphotransferase, a product of two separate genes (GNPTAB, GNPTG), is essential for the sorting and transportation of lysosomal enzymes to lysosomes. GNPTAB gene defects cause extracellular missorting of lysosomal enzymes resulting in lysosomal storage diseases, namely mucolipidosis type II and mucolipidosis type III alpha/beta, which is associated with hair discoloration. Yet, the physiological functions of GNPTAB in the control of hair follicle (HF) pigmentation remain unknown. To elucidate these, we have silenced GNPTAB in organ-cultured human HFs as a human ex vivo model for mucolipidosis type II. GNPTAB silencing profoundly inhibited intrafollicular melanin production, the correct sorting of melanosomes, tyrosinase activity, and HMB45 expression in the HF pigmentary unit and altered HF melanocyte morphology in situ. In isolated primary human HF melanocytes, GNPTAB knockdown significantly reduced melanogenesis, tyrosinase activity, and correct tyrosinase protein sorting as well as POMC expression and caused the expected lysosomal enzyme missorting in vitro. Moreover, transgenic mice overexpressing an inserted missense mutation corresponding to that seen in human mucolipidosis type II and mucolipidosis type III alpha/beta showed significantly reduced HF pigmentation, thus corroborating the in vivo relevance of our ex vivo and in vitro findings in the human system. This identifies GNPTAB as a clinically important enzymatic control of human HF pigmentation, likely by directly controlling tyrosinase sorting and POMC transcription in HF melanocytes.
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