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Pigment Cell Res. 1992 Nov;5(5 Pt 1):240-6.

Melanin standard method: empirical formula 2.

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Melan, Inc., Orland, California 95963.


Natural melanins are composed of two distinct portions; a protein fraction and a chromophoric backbone. There is no unequivocal evidence for covalent bonding between these two fractions, and standard protocols used in protein purification have failed to separate the protein fraction from the chromophoric fraction. In order to study the chromophoric backbone, many workers have resorted to harsh isolation and purification protocols that are now known to degrade and damage the chromophoric portion. These artifactual melanin preparations are poor models for valid chemical, physical, and biological studies. We have developed a mild isolation and purification protocol for melanins that takes into consideration both the particulate nature of natural melanins and the stability characteristics of the chromophoric fraction. Mathematical factoring of the quantitative amino acid data into the elemental analysis was used to obtain the empirical formula of the chromophoric backbone of melanins. The analyses have shown that melanins from various sources have significantly different amino acid compositions and contents, molar C/N ratios, and empirical formulae. This method successfully differentiates melanins from a variety of sources, namely, human hair, Sepia officinalis, Sigma Chemical Company (cat. no. M8631), autoxidation of dopa, and from the feathers of Rhode Island Red chickens. Analytical results from these studies are presented and discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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