The Journal of investigative dermatology

Conditional Deletion of Kit in Melanocytes: White Spotting Phenotype Is Cell Autonomous.

PMID 25734811


It is well established that cell-intrinsic signaling through the receptor tyrosine kinase KIT is critical for the development of neural crest-derived melanocytes. Nevertheless, it is not entirely clear whether Kit acts exclusively in a melanocyte-autonomous manner or in addition indirectly through other cell types. To address this question in vivo, we generated a targeted allele of Kit that allowed for CRE recombinase-mediated deletion of the transmembrane domain of KIT. Mice carrying one copy of the targeted allele and expressing CRE under the melanoblast/melanocyte-specific tyrosinase promoter exhibited a white spotting phenotype that was even more extensive compared with that found in mice heterozygous for a Kit-null allele. This phenotype is unlikely the result of sequestration of KIT ligand by neighboring cells or by potentially secreted forms of KIT because the spotting phenotype could not be rescued by overexpression of KITL. Likewise, overexpression of endothelin-3 or hepatocyte growth factor was unable to rescue melanocytes in these mice. Although the severity of the observed phenotype remains to be explained, the findings indicate that melanocyte-selective impairment of Kit is sufficient to interfere with normal melanocyte development.