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Cell Tissue Res. 2008 Jun;332(3):447-60. doi: 10.1007/s00441-008-0597-5. Epub 2008 Apr 12.

Vacuolar-type H(+)-ATPase with the a3 isoform is the proton pump on premature melanosomes.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Doshisha Women's College, Kyoto, Japan.


The melanosome, an organelle specialized for melanin synthesis, is one of the lysosome-related organelles. Its lumen is reported to be acidified by vacuolar-type H(+)-ATPase (V-ATPase). Mammalian V-ATPase exhibits structural diversity in its subunit isoforms; with regard to membrane intrinsic subunit a, four isoforms (a1-a4) have been found to be localized to distinct subcellular compartments. In this study, we have shown that the a3 isoform is co-localized with a melanosome marker protein, Pmel17, in mouse melanocytes. Acidotropic probes (LysoSensor and DAMP) accumulate in non-pigmented Pmel17-positive melanosomes, and DAMP accumulation is sensitive to bafilomycin A1, a specific inhibitor of V-ATPase. However, none of the subunit a isoforms is associated with highly pigmented mature melanosomes, in which the acidotropic probes are also not accumulated. oc/oc mice, which have a null mutation at the a3 locus, show no obvious defects in melanogenesis. In the mutant melanocytes, the expression of the a2 isoform is modestly elevated, and a considerable fraction of this isoform is localized to premature melanosomes. These observations suggest that the V-ATPase keeps the lumen of premature melanosomes acidic, whereas melanosomal acidification is less significant in mature melanosomes.

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