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J Cell Sci. 1988 Mar;89 ( Pt 3):287-96.

Positive regulation of melanin pigmentation by two key substrates of the melanogenic pathway, L-tyrosine and L-dopa.

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Department of Dermatology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.


We describe results demonstrating the positive regulation of melanogenesis by two substrates of the melanogenic pathway. We have found that L-tyrosine and L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa), whose metabolic fates are affected by the activity of that pathway, can also act as its regulators. In living pigment cells, tyrosinase (EC, a crucial and rate-limiting enzyme of melanogenesis, acts in subcellular organelles known as melanosomes. Melanin is laid down only in these organelles. We demonstrate that supplementing Ham's F-10 medium with additional L-tyrosine or L-dopa during the culture of amelanotic Bomirski hamster melanoma cells results in a rapid increase in melanin formation, which is not simply due to greater availability of substrate. There is a rapid increase in tyrosinase activity and a large scale synthesis of melanosomes. The effects of L-tyrosine and L-dopa are prevented by the addition of cycloheximide. The actions of L-tyrosine and L-dopa are specific in that under similar conditions D-tyrosine, D-dopa, N-acetyl-L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, L-tryptophan and L-valine have little or no effect. The two substrates, L-tyrosine and L-dopa, appear to act through related but distinct mechanisms. Our findings provide an example of a little-known phenomenon: regulation of a differentiated eukaryotic phenotype through positive control by substrates in the pathway.

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