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J Phys Chem B. 2010 Jul 29;114(29):9677-83. doi: 10.1021/jp102603b.

The ultraviolet absorption coefficient of melanosomes decreases with increasing pheomelanin content.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.


Uveal melanosomes from the iridal stroma contain both eumelanin and pheomelanin, the ratio of which varies with iris color. Herein, we report the absorption coefficient at lambda = 244 nm for individual human iridal stroma melanosomes from dark brown and blue-green irides. The melanosomes are nearly identical in size, but differ in the relative concentration composition, ranging from a eumelanin/pheomelanin ratio of 14.8:1 (dark brown) to 1.3:1 (blue-green or hazel). The absorption coefficient of the melanosome decreases as its pheomelanin content increases. The origin of this decrease is attributed to a corresponding decrease in the number of UV-absorbing chromophores, reflecting the different molecular volumes of the monomeric building blocks of the two pigments. In agreement with reported data on synthetic pigments, the absorption coefficient of pheomelanin is found to be slightly larger than that for eumelanin at lambda = 244 nm (by a factor of 1.2). On the basis of the reported optical properties of synthetic models, this result suggests that the absorption of pheomelanin is less than eumelanin at wavelengths of biological relevance ( approximately 315-400 nm).

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