The genetics of sun sensitivity in humans.

Systems Group, Dermatology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
The American Journal of Human Genetics (Impact Factor: 10.99). 11/2004; 75(5):739-51. DOI: 10.1086/425285
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Humans vary >100-fold in their sensitivity to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. The main determinants of sensitivity are melanin pigmentation and less-well-characterized differences in skin inflammation and repair processes. Pigmentation has a high heritability, but susceptibility to cancers of the skin, a key marker of sun sensitivity, is less heritable. Despite a large number of murine coat-color mutations, only one gene in humans, the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), is known to account for substantial variation in skin and hair color and in skin cancer incidence. MC1R encodes a 317-amino acid G-coupled receptor that controls the relative amounts of the two major melanin classes, eumelanin and pheomelanin. Most persons with red hair are homozygous for alleles of the MC1R gene that show varying degrees of diminished function. More than 65 human MC1R alleles with nonsynonymous changes have been identified, and current evidence suggests that many of them vary in their physiological activity, such that a graded series of responses can be achieved on the basis of (i) dosage effects (of one or two alleles) and (ii) individual differences in the pharmacological profile in response to ligand. Thus, a single locus, identified within a Mendelian framework, can contribute significantly to human pigmentary variation.

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    Expert Review of Dermatology 01/2014; 8(6).
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    ABSTRACT: Background. The MC1R gene implicated in melanogenesis and skin pigmentation is highly polymorphic. Several alleles are associated with red hair and fair skin phenotypes and contribute to melanoma risk. Objective. This work aims to assess the effect of different classes of MC1R variants, notably rare variants, on melanoma risk. Methods. MC1R coding region was sequenced in 1131 melanoma patients and 869 healthy controls. MC1R variants were classified as RHC (R) and non-RHC (r). Rare variants (frequency < 1%) were subdivided into two subgroups, predicted to be damaging (D) or not (nD). Results. Both R and r alleles were associated with melanoma (OR = 2.66 [2.20-3.23] and 1.51 [1.32-1.73]) and had similar population attributable risks (15.8% and 16.6%). We also identified 69 rare variants, of which 25 were novel. D variants were strongly associated with melanoma (OR = 2.38 [1.38-4.15]) and clustered in the same MC1R domains as R alleles (intracellular 2, transmembrane 2 and 7). Conclusion. This work confirms the role of R and r alleles in melanoma risk in the French population and proposes a novel class of rare D variants as important melanoma risk factors. These findings may improve the definition of high-risk subjects that could be targeted for melanoma prevention and screening.
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