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Some genetic melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) variants responsible for human red hair color (RHC-variants) are consequently associated with increased melanoma risk. Although MC1R signaling is critically dependent on its palmitoylation primarily mediated by the ZDHHC13 protein-acyl transferase, whether increasing MC1R palmitoylation represents a viable therapeutic target to limit melanomagenesis in redheads is unknown. Here we identify a specific and efficient in vivo strategy to induce MC1R palmitoylation for therapeutic benefit. We validate the importance of ZDHHC13 to MC1R signaling in vivo by targeted expression of ZDHHC13 in C57BL/6J-MC1RRHC mice and subsequently inhibit melanomagenesis. By identifying APT2 as the MC1R depalmitoylation enzyme, we are able to demonstrate that administration of the selective APT2 inhibitor ML349 treatment efficiently increases MC1R signaling and represses UVB-induced melanomagenesis in vitro and in vivo. Targeting APT2, therefore, represents a preventive/therapeutic strategy to reduce melanoma risk, especially in individuals with red hair.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

Publication Date





Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Resistance Biology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, College of Life Sciences, Shandong Normal University, 250014, Jinan, Shandong, China.


Cell Line, Melanocytes, Animals, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Transgenic, Humans, Mice, Mice, Nude, Melanoma, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Thiolester Hydrolases, Acyltransferases, Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1, Hair Color, Signal Transduction, Lipoylation, HEK293 Cells, Carcinogenesis