Journal of Health Sciences & Research

Register      Login

VOLUME 10 , ISSUE 2 ( July-December, 2019 ) > List of Articles


Biophysiology of Oral Mucosal Melanocytes

Shilpa C Natesan, Bindhu P Ramakrishnan, Rekha Krishnapillai, Priya Thomas

Keywords : Melanin, Melanocytes, Oral mucosal melanocytes, Pigmentation,Dendritic cells

Citation Information : Natesan SC, Ramakrishnan BP, Krishnapillai R, Thomas P. Biophysiology of Oral Mucosal Melanocytes. J Health Sci Res 2019; 10 (2):47-51.

DOI: 10.5005/jp-journals-10042-1083

License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Published Online: 26-08-2020

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2019; Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) Ltd.


Melanocytes are specialized cells derived from the fourth germ layer—the neural crest cells. They play an important role in human pigmentation through their ability to produce melanin. In addition to skin, melanocytes are also seen in eyes, ear, adipose tissue, brain, heart, and oral mucosa. Although melanin production is the chief function, melanocytes located in various other parts of the body have different roles. These dendritic cells identified in the oral mucosa are very much similar to epidermal melanocytes. The information on oral mucosal melanocytes is mainly from the research conducted on epidermal melanocytes. Hence, the knowledge on the development, morphology, and functions of oral mucosal melanocytes is very much limited. Therefore, this review is to provide more insights into the biophysiological aspects of oral mucosal melanocytes.

PDF Share
  1. Westerhof W. The discovery of the human melanocyte. Pigment Cell Res 2006;19(3):183–193. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0749.2006.00313.x.
  2. Brenner M, Hearing VJ. What are melanocytes really doing all day long…? From the view point of a keratinocyte: melanocytes–cells with a secret identity and incomparable abilities. Exp Dermatol 2009;18(9):799. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2009.00912.x.
  3. Laidlaw GF, Cahn LR. Melanoblasts in the gum. J Dent Res 1932;12:534–537.
  4. Becker SW, Zimmerman AA. Further studies on melanocytes and melanogenesis in the human fetus and newborn. J Invest Dermatol 1955;25(2):103–112. DOI: 10.1038/jid.1955.104.
  5. Barrett AW, Scully C. Human oral mucosal melanocytes: a review. J Oral Pathol Med 1994;23(3):97–103. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0714.1994.tb01095.x.
  6. Rawles ME. Origin of pigment cells from the neural crest in the mouse embryo. Physiol Zool 1947;20(3):248–266. DOI: 10.1086/physzool.20.3.30151958.
  7. Rawles ME. Origin of melanophores and their role in development of color patterns in vertebrates. Physiol Rev 1948;28(4):383–408. DOI: 10.1152/physrev.1948.28.4.383.
  8. Cichorek M, Wachulska M, Stasiewicz A, et al. Skin melanocytes: biology and development. Postepy Dermatol Alergol 2013;30(1):30–41. DOI: 10.5114/pdia.2013.33376.
  9. Thomas AJ, Erickson CA. The making of a melanocyte: the specification of melanoblasts from the neural crest. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res 2008;21(6):598–610. DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-148X.2008.00506.x.
  10. Feller L, Masilana A, Khammissa RA, et al. Melanin: the biophysiology of oral melanocytes and physiological oral pigmentation. Head Face Med 2014;10:8. DOI: 10.1186/1746-160X-10-8.
  11. Levy C, Khaled M, Fisher DE. MITF: master regulator of melanocyte development and melanoma oncogene. Trends Mol Med 2006;12(9):406–414. DOI: 10.1016/j.molmed.2006.07.008.
  12. Orlow SJ. Melanosomes are specialized members of the lysosomal lineage of organelles. J Invest Dermatol 1995;105(1):3–7. DOI: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12312291.
  13. Gertrude EC, Vincent JH. Human skin pigmentation: melanocytes modulate skin color in response to stress. FASEB J 2007;21(4):976–994. DOI: 10.1096/fj.06-6649rev.
  14. Lin JY, Fisher DE. Melanocyte biology and skin pigmentation. Nature 2007;445(7130):843–850. DOI: 10.1038/nature05660.
  15. Prota G. Melanins and Melanogenesis. London: Academic Press; 2012. pp. 1–13.
  16. Nishimura EK, Jordan SA, Oshima H, et al. Dominant role of the niche in melanocyte stem-cell fate determination. Nature 2002;416(6883):854–860. DOI: 10.1038/416854a.
  17. Bancroft J, Gamble M. Theory and Practice of Histological Techniques. 5th ed., New York: Churchill Livingstone; 2002. pp. 240–245.
  18. Busam KJ, Barnhill RL, Piepkorn MW. Melanocytes. In: Barnhill RL, Piepkorn MW, Busam KJ. Pathology of Melanocytic Nevi and Melanoma. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer; 2014. pp.1–11.
  19. Moneim RA, El Deeb M, Rabea AA. Gingival pigmentation cause, treatment and histological preview. Future Dental Journal 2017;3(1): 1–7. DOI: 10.1016/j.fdj.2017.04.002.
  20. Nordlund JJ. The melanocyte and the epidermal melanin unit: an expanded concept. Dermatol Clin 2007;25(3):271–281. DOI: 10.1016/j.det.2007.04.001.
  21. Haass NK, Smalley KS, Li L, et al. Adhesion, migration and communications in melanocytes and melanoma. Pigment Cell Res 2005;18(3):150–159. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0749.2005.00235.x.
  22. Ando H, Niki Y, Ito M, et al. Melanosomes are transferred from melanocytes to keratinocytes through the processes of packaging, release, uptake, and dispersion. J Investig Dermatol 2012;132(4): 1222–1229. DOI: 10.1038/jid.2011.413.
  23. Hirobe T. Role of keratinocyte-derived factors involved in regulating the proliferation and differentiation of mammalian epidermal melanocytes. Pigment Cell Res 2005;18(1):2–12. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0749.2004.00198.x.
  24. Rinnerthaler M, Streubel MK, Bischof J, et al. Skin aging, gene expression and calcium. Exp Gerontol 2015;68:59–65. DOI: 10.1016/j.exger.2014.09.015.
  25. Bin BH, Kim DK, Kim NH, et al. Fibronectin containing extracellular vesicles protect melanocytes against ultraviolet radiation-induced cytotoxicity. J Invest Dermatol 2016;136(5):957–966. DOI: 10.1016/j.jid.2015.08.001.
  26. Tsatmali M, Ancans J, Thody AJ. Melanocyte function and its control by melanocortin peptides. J Histochem Cytochem 2002;50(2): 125–133. DOI: 10.1177/002215540205000201.
  27. Slominski A, Paus R, Schadendorf D. Melanocytes as “sensory” and regulatory cells in the epidermis. J Theor Biol 1993;164(1):103–120. DOI: 10.1006/jtbi.1993.1142.
  28. Nilima S, Vandana KL. Melanin: a scavenger in gingival inflammation. Indian J Dent Res 2011;22(1):38–43. DOI: 10.4103/0970-9290.79973.
  29. Lu Y, Zhu WY, Tan C, et al. Melanocytes are potential immunocompetent cells: evidence from recognition of immunological characteristics of cultured human melanocytes. Pigment Cell Res 2002;15(6):54–460. DOI: 10.1034/j.1600-0749.2002.02065.x.
  30. Hong Y, Song B, Chen HD, et al. Melanocytes and skin immunity. J Invest dermatol Symp Proc 2015;17(1):37–39. DOI: 10.1038/jidsymp.2015.14.
  31. Eisen D. Disorders of pigmentation in the oral cavity. Clin Dermatol 2000;18(5):579–587. DOI: 10.1016/s0738-081x(00)00148-6.
  32. Sreeja C, Ramakrishnan K, Vijayalakshmi D, et al. Oral pigmentation: a review. J Pharm Bioallied Sci 2015;7(Suppl 2):S403. DOI: 10.4103/0975-7406.163471.
  33. Dereure O. Drug-induced skin pigmentation. Am J Clin Dermatol 2001;2(4):253–262. DOI: 10.2165/00128071-200102040-00006.
  34. Abdollahi M, Radfar M. A review of drug-induced oral reactions. J Contemp Dent Pract 2003;4(1):10–31. DOI: 10.5005/jcdp-4-1-10.
  35. Li L, Fukunaga-Kalabis M, Yu H, et al. Human dermal stem cells differentiate into functional epidermal melanocytes. J Cell Sci 2010;123(Pt 6):853–860. DOI: 10.1242/jcs.061598.
PDF Share

© Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) LTD.