Functional Characterization of the Odorant Receptor 51E2 in Human Melanocytes

  1. Hanns Hatt1

+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1 Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany;
  2. 2 Friedrich Schiller University, Germany;
  3. 3 University Hospital Jena, Germany
  1. * Corresponding author; email:
  1. Author contributions: L.G., N.J. and S.V. performed experimental research. H.-D.A. performed synthesis of the FITC-steroids. L.G., E.M.N. and H.H. conceived and designed the research. L.G., N.J. and E.M.N. wrote the manuscript.


Olfactory receptors, which belong to the family of G-Protein coupled receptors, are found to be ectopically expressed in non-sensory tissues mediating a variety of cellular functions. In this study, we detected the olfactory receptor OR51E2 at the transcript and protein level in human epidermal melanocytes. Stimulation of primary melanocytes with the OR51E2 ligand beta-ionone significantly inhibited melanocyte proliferation. Our results further showed that beta-ionone stimulates melanogenesis and dendritogenesis. Using RNA silencing and receptor antagonists we demonstrated that OR51E2 activation elevated cytosolic [Ca2+] and [cAMP], which could mediate the observed increase in melanin synthesis. Co-immunocytochemical stainings using a specific OR51E2 antibody revealed subcellular localization of the receptor in early endosomes associated with EEA-1. Plasma membrane preparations revealed that OR51E2 protein is present at the melanocyte cell surface. Our findings thus suggest that activation of olfactory receptor signaling by external compounds can influence melanocyte homeostasis.

  • Received April 29, 2016.
  • Accepted May 18, 2016.

Submit your work to JBC.

You'll be in good company.