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J Invest Dermatol. 1993 Dec;101(6):871-4.

Glutathione depletion increases tyrosinase activity in human melanoma cells.

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  • 1L.O.C.E, Faculty of Medicine, University of Brussels, Belgium.


The aim of the present work was to estimate the effect of intracellular glutathione depletion on melanogenesis in human melanoma cells. We determined tyrosine hydroxylation activity, the rate-limiting step of the pathway, and 14C-melanin formation, an assay reflecting the global eumelanogenic pathway. Intracellular glutathione was depleted by treatment with buthionine-S-sulfoximine, a well-known inhibitor of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase. The intracellular depletion of glutathione was substantial after 20 h of incubation with 50 microM buthionine-S-sulfoximine, although a significant effect could be observed after 6 h. Tyrosine hydroxylase activity increased in parallel with glutathione depletion, to reach 160% with respect to the control values during 24 h of buthionine-S-sulfoximine treatment. We have found the response to buthionine-S-sulfoximine to be dose dependent and the two different human cell lines HBL and LND1 to have similar, if not identical, responses. 14C-melanin formation assay revealed even greater activation, up to 400% of the control values. This indicates that glutathione depletion may have two distinct effects: first, a direct one on tyrosinase activity and, second, an effect on the promotion of eumelanogenesis. The stimulation of tyrosine hydroxylase can be explained by a possible inactivation of the enzyme by endogenous thiol compounds rather than by a direct effect of buthionine-S-sulfoximine itself on tyrosinase. The data suggest that thiol compounds may play a role for stimulation of melanogenesis by ultraviolet radiation.

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