Research

Light-sensitive trigger

In search of a light-sensitive trigger

Certain skin cells respond to ultraviolet light by pumping out melanin, the pigment responsible for the tanning response. The hunt for a light-receptor mechanism outside the eye led to an ion channel called TRPA1. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

Researchers have strengthened their understanding of how skin cells called melanocytes sense ultraviolet light and act to protect themselves with melanin. In a new study, they report experiments showing that an ion channel well-known elsewhere in the body for its chemical sensitivity, plays a central role in this process.