Skin Pigmentation | its role in the skin

Skin pigmentation generally refers to the colour of your skin.

It is determined by the amount and type of melanin in the skin and can be influenced by:

  1. Genetic pigmentation (whether you are African, Asian or Caucasian)
  2. Facultative pigmentation (external factors such as UV exposure and time spent outdoors in the sun)

There are two main actors in this story that help produce pigmentation.

The main actor is MITF (microphtalmia-associated transcriptional factor).

MITF has a role in constitutive pigmentation as well as facultative pigmentation. In other words, it defines what type of racial type of pigmentation will occur.

For the latter, MITF regulates the skins’ response to UV. As you can see in the diagram, you can refer to MITF as the conductor of an orchestra, as they are the ones calling all the shots and dictating what the others should be doing.

The supporting actors are known as Tyrosinase. This is the main enzyme involved in the pigmentation cascade.

Tyrosinase regulates smaller enzyme ‘supporting actors’ such as TRP-1 and TRP-2. If we refer back to our conductor analogy, the supporting actors would be the musicians in an orchestra. They follow MITF’s instructions.

When both work together, the result is melanin pigments. This is what gives skin it’s colour. We can call this the ‘music’.

Content and images courtesy of Unipex.