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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Mar;114(3):430-7.

Pro-opiomelanocortin-related peptides, prohormone convertases 1 and 2 and the regulatory peptide 7B2 are present in melanosomes of human melanocytes.

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Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK.


Recently, it has been shown that alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone can directly activate tyrosinase by removing the allosteric regulator 6(R)-L-erythro 5,6,7,8 tetrahydrobiopterin resulting in a stable alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone/6(R)-L-erythro 5,6,7,8 tetrahydrobiopterin complex. As melanin production occurs in the melanosome, a specific organelle of the melanocyte, it seemed important to investigate whether these organelles themselves actually produce pro-opiomelanocortin-related peptides in their acidic environment. The presence of alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone and adrenocorticotropin in the epidermis and melanocytes has been shown by several investigators. In order to follow possible pro-opiomelanocortin processing in the melanosome, human melanocytes were established in MCDB 153 medium and utilized for immunohistochemistry, immunogold electron microscopy, and western blotting. For this purpose antibodies against alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone, adrenocorticotropin, prohormone convertases 1 and 2 (PC1 and PC2) and the PC2 regulatory protein 7B2 were used. Our results demonstrated the presence of the entire system for pro-opiomelanocortin processing in the melanosome. Considering the pH optima of these convertases, the results are in agreement with an autocrine intramelanosomal production of pro- opiomelanocortin-related peptides and an autocrine production and recycling of the cofactor 6(R)-L- erythro 5,6,7,8 tetrahydrobiopterin in melanocytes. Based on these novel observations, we would like to propose that the pigmentation process may not necessarily involve a melanocortin-1 receptor-mediated mechanism.

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