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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1991 Aug 6;1074(3):378-85.

Studies on the reactions between human tyrosinase, superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide and thiols.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Hamburg, F.R.G.


Human tyrosinase (5.5 mg) has been purified from a single human melanotic melanoma metastasis (50.5 g). In the presence of dioxygen, L-tyrosine proved to be a very poor substrate for this enzyme with barely detectable activity compared to L-dopa. However, saturating superoxide anion (i.e., greater than 5 x 10(-3) M) enhanced the oxidation rate of L-tyrosine to dopachrome 40-fold. Hydrogen peroxide was shown to be a competitive inhibitor of tyrosinase when L-tyrosine was the substrate. This reversible inhibition is based on a slow pseudocatalase activity for tyrosinase. Monothiols and dithiols inhibit tyrosinase by different mechanisms. Reduced human thioredoxin and 2,3-dithiopropanol are allosteric inhibitors of tyrosinase yielding bis-cysteinate complexes with one of the copper atoms in the enzyme active site. Bis-cysteinate tyrosinase activity is down-regulated to 30% of native enzyme activity in the L-dopa assay; suggesting a true regulatory role for dithiols. Monothiols such as reduced glutathione and beta-mercaptoethanol are much less reactive with tyrosinase although 10(-3) M monothiol totally inhibits enzyme activity. Reduced thioredoxin inhibits tyrosinase 23-fold more than reduced glutathione under the same experimental conditions.

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