The MC1R gene plays a crucial role in pigmentation synthesis. Loss-of-function MC1R variants, which impair protein function, are associated with red hair color (RHC) phenotype and increased skin cancer risk. Cultured cutaneous cells bearing loss-of-function MC1R variants show a distinct gene expression profile compared to wild-type MC1R cultured cutaneous cells. We analysed the gene signature associated with RHC co-cultured melanocytes and keratinocytes by Protein-Protein interaction (PPI) network analysis to identify genes related with non-functional MC1R variants. From two detected networks, we selected 23 nodes as hub genes based on topological parameters. Differential expression of hub genes was then evaluated in healthy skin biopsies from RHC and black hair color (BHC) individuals. We also compared gene expression in melanoma tumors from individuals with RHC versus BHC. Gene expression in normal skin from RHC cutaneous cells showed dysregulation in 8 out of 23 hub genes (CLN3, ATG10, WIPI2, SNX2, GABARAPL2, YWHA, PCNA and GBAS). Hub genes did not differ between melanoma tumors in RHC versus BHC individuals. The study suggests that healthy skin cells from RHC individuals present a constitutive genomic deregulation associated with the red hair phenotype and identify novel genes involved in melanocyte biology.
MC1R, red hair phenotype, melanocyte, melanoma, autophagy