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J Biol Chem. 1994 Nov 18;269(46):29198-205.

The Pmel 17/silver locus protein. Characterization and investigation of its melanogenic function.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


The silver mutation in mice causes progressive graying of hair due to the loss of functional follicular melanocytes. Recently the silver locus gene (called Pmel 17) has been cloned; its encoded product shares homology with a chick melanosomal matrix protein and a bovine retinal pigment epithelial protein. Although the sequence of the silver gene and the correlation of its expression with pigment production have been reported, its function in melanogenesis is still unknown. In an effort to characterize that function, we have synthesized the predicted carboxyl-terminal peptide of the mouse Pmel 17 protein and generated a rabbit polyclonal antibody (alpha PEP13) to it; that antibody recognized the silver protein specifically. The immunoaffinity-purified silver protein lacked all of the known melanogenic catalytic activities which other tyrosinase-related proteins (TRP) have, nor did it appear to modulate any of those TRP activities. Metabolic labeling experiments demonstrated that the silver protein disappears in vivo within a few hours, indicating that it is rapidly degraded, or quickly processed to lose its carboxyl terminus. Cross-reactivity experiments showed that a recently reported anti-melanosomal matrix protein antibody (alpha MX) also recognizes the silver protein, although at a different epitope from that of alpha PEP13. Using Western immunoblotting, we analyzed subcellular fractions isolated from B16 F10 melanoma cells and found that the silver protein was rich in the melanosome fraction but was absent from coated vesicles which deliver TRPs to melanosomes. These results suggest that the silver locus product is a melanosomal matrix protein which may contribute to melanogenesis as a structural protein, although the possibility remains that it also has a novel catalytic function in melanogenesis.

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