BACKGROUND Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) plays an important role in the proceedings of vitiligo through recruiting lymphocytes to the lesional skin. However, the potential effects of IFN-γ on skin melanocytes and the subsequent contribution to the vitiligo pathogenesis are still unclear. OBJECTIVE To investigate the effects of IFN-γ on viability and cellular functions of melanocytes. METHODS Primary human melanocytes were treated with IFN-γ. Cell viability, apoptosis, cell cycle melanin content and intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) level were measured. mRNA expression was examined by real-time PCR. The release of interleukin 6 (IL-6) and heat shock protein 70 (HSP-70) was monitored by ELISA. β-galactosidase staining was utilized to evaluate melanocyte senescence. RESULTS Persistent IFN-γ treatment induced viability loss, apoptosis, cell cycle arrest and senescence in melanocytes. Melanocyte senescence was characterized as the changes in pigmentation and morphology, as well as the increase of β-galactosidase activity. Increase of p21Cip1/Waf1 protein was evident in melanocytes after IFN-γ treatment. IFN-γ induction of senescence was attenuated by siRNAs against p21, Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) or signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1), but not by JAK1 siRNA nor by p53 inhibitor pifithrin-α. IFN-γ treatment increased the accumulation of intracellular ROS in melanocytes, while ROS scavenger N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) effectively inhibited IFN-γ induced p21 expression and melanocyte senescence. IL-6 and HSP-70 release was significantly induced by IFN-γ treatment, which was largely inhibited by NAC. The increase of IL-6 and HSP-70 release could also be observed in senescent melanocytes. CONCLUSION IFN-γ can induce senescence in melanocytes and consequently enhance their immuno-competency, leading to a vitiligo-prone milieu.
Wang, S., Zhou, M., Lin, F., Liu, D., Hong, W., Lu, L., … Xu, A. (2014). Interferon-γ induces senescence in normal human melanocytes. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0093232