Endogenous DOPA inhibits melanoma through suppression of CHRM1 signaling

Miriam Doepner, Inyoung Lee, Christopher A. Natale, Roderick Brathwaite, Swati Venkat, Sung Hoon Kim, Yiliang Wei, Christopher R. Vakoc, Brian C. Capell, John A. Katzenellenbogen, Benita S. Katzenellenbogen, Michael E. Feigin, Todd W. Ridky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Melanoma risk is 30 times higher in people with lightly pigmented skin versus darkly pigmented skin. Using primary human melanocytes representing the full human skin pigment continuum and preclinical melanoma models, we show that cell-intrinsic differences between dark and light melanocytes regulate melanocyte proliferative capacity and susceptibility to malignant transformation, independent of melanin and ultraviolet exposure. These differences result from dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), a melanin precursor synthesized at higher levels in melanocytes from darkly pigmented skin. We used both high-throughput pharmacologic and genetic in vivo CRISPR screens to determine that DOPA limits melanocyte and melanoma cell proliferation by inhibiting the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M1 (CHRM1) signaling. Pharmacologic CHRM1 antagonism in melanoma leads to depletion of c-Myc and FOXM1, both of which are proliferation drivers associated with aggressive melanoma. In preclinical mouse melanoma models, pharmacologic inhibition of CHRM1 or FOXM1 inhibited tumor growth. CHRM1 and FOXM1 may be new therapeutic targets for melanoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereabn4007
JournalScience Advances
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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