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Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Sep;27(5-6):521-8.

Transient quinonimines and 1,4-benzothiazines of pheomelanogenesis: new pulse radiolytic and spectrophotometric evidence.

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  • 1The Department of Organic and Biological Chemistry, University of Naples Federico II, Italy.


Biosynthetic and model in vitro studies have shown that pheomelanins, the distinctive pigments of red human hair, arise by oxidative cyclization of cysteinyldopas mainly 5-S-cysteinyldopa (1) via a critical o-quinonimine intermediate, which rearranges to unstable 1,4-benzothiazines. To get new evidence for these labile species, fast time resolution pulse radiolytic oxidation by dibromide radical anion of a suitable precursor, the dihydro-1,4-benzothiazine-3-carboxylic acid 7 was performed in comparison with that of 1. In the case of 7, dibromide radical anion oxidation leads over a few microseconds (k = 2.1 x 10(9) M(-1) s(-1)) to a phenoxyl radical (lambda(max) 330 nm, epsilon = 6300 M(-1) cm(-1)) which within tens of milliseconds gives rise with second-order kinetics (2k = 2.7 x 10(7) M(-1) s(-1)) to a species exhibiting an absorption maximum at 540 nm (epsilon = 2200 M(-1) cm(-1)). This was formulated as the o-quinonimine 3 arising from disproportionation of the initial radical. The quinonimine chromophore is converted over hundreds of milliseconds (k = 6.0 s(-1)) to a broad maximum at around 330 nm interpreted as due to a 1,4-benzothiazine or a mixture of 1,4-benzothiazines, which as expected are unstable and subsequently decay over a few seconds (k = 0.5 s(-1)). Interestingly, the quinonimine is observed as a labile intermediate also in the alternative reaction route examined, involving cyclization of the o-quinone (lambda(max) 390 nm, epsilon = 6900 M(-1) cm(-1)) arising by disproportionation (2k = 1.7 x 10(8) M(-1) s(-1)) of an o-semiquinone (lambda(max) 320 nm, epsilon = 4700 M(-1) cm(-1)) directly generated by dibromide radical anion oxidation of 1. Structural formulation of the 540 nm species as an o-quinonimine was further supported by rapid scanning diode array spectrophotometric monitoring of the ferricyanide oxidation of a series of model dihydrobenzothiazines.

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