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People with red hair carry variants of the MC1R gene, which puts them at increased risk of developing melanoma.

A proposed risk reduction strategy is to increase the level of a modification called palmitoylation on the MC1R protein, which would beneficially increase MC1R activity. However, the mechanism to enable this strategy had not yet been discovered. In this Nature Communications article, Ludwig Oxford’s Colin Goding and co-workers from Boston University School of Medicine and Shandong Normal University, China, identify the enzyme APT2 responsible for removing MC1R palmitoylation and show that APT2 inhibition rescues defects in variant MC1R activity. APT2 inhibition could therefore form the basis for a new preventative/therapeutic strategy for reducing melanoma risk in redheads and others.