The pineal hormone, melatonin (5-methoxy N-acetyltryptamine) induces a rapid aggregation of melanin-containing pigment granules in isolated melanophores of Xenopus laevis. Treatment of melanophores with activators of protein kinase C (PKC), including phorbol esters, mezerein and a synthetic diacylglycerol, did not affect pigment granule distribution but did prevent and reverse melatonin-induced pigment aggregation. This effect was blocked by an inhibitor of PKC, Ro 31-8220. The inhibitory effect was not a direct effect on melatonin receptors, per se, as the slow aggregation induced by a high concentration of an inhibitor of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphothioate, Rp-diastereomer (Rp-cAMPS), was also reversed by PKC activation. Presumably activation of PKC, like PKA activation, stimulates the intracellular machinery involved in the centrifugal translocation of pigment granules along microtubules. alpha-Melanocyte stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH), like PKC activators, overcame melatonin-induced aggregation but this response was not blocked by the PKC inhibitor, Ro 31-8220. This data indicates that centrifugal translocation (dispersion) of pigment granules in Xenopus melanophores can be triggered by activation of either PKA, as occurs after alpha-MSH treatment, or PKC. The very slow aggregation in response to inhibition of PKA with high concentrations of Rp-cAMPS, suggests that the rapid aggregation in response to melatonin may involve multiple intracellular signals in addition to the documented Gi-mediated inhibition of adenylate cyclase.

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