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J Muscle Res Cell Motil. 1997 Oct;18(5):517-27.

The predominant defect in dilute melanocytes is in melanosome distribution and not cell shape, supporting a role for myosin V in melanosome transport.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-0301, USA.


Mice with mutations at the dilute locus, which encodes the heavy chain of a type V unconventional myosin, exhibit a reduction in coat colour intensity. This defect is thought to be caused by the absence in dilute melanocytes of the extensive dendritic arbor through which these cells normally deliver pigment-laden melanosomes to keratinocytes. The data on which this conclusion has been based can also be explained, however, by a defect in the outward transport of melanosomes within melanocytes of normal shape. To resolve this question, we compared the shape and pigment distribution within melanocytes present in primary cultures prepared from the epidermis of C57BL/6J pups that were either wild type (D/D) at dilute or homozygous for the dilute null allele d120J. These same comparisons were also performed on melanocytes in situ, where antibodies to the membrane tyrosine kinase receptor cKIT were used to visualize melanocyte cell shape independent of pigment distribution. Wild type melanocytes were found to be dendritic and to have melanosomes distributed throughout their dendrites both in vitro and in situ. Mutant melanocytes were also found to be dendritic in both cases, but their melanosomes were highly concentrated in the cell body and largely excluded from dendrites. We conclude, therefore, that the predominant defect in dilute melanocytes is in melanosome distribution, not cell shape. These results argue that the myosin V isoform encoded by the dilute locus functions in dendritic extensions to move melanosomes from their site of formation within the cell body to their site of intercellular transfer at dendritic tips. This conclusion is consistent with our recent demonstration by immunolocalization that the dilute myosin V isoform associates with melanosomes in mouse melanocytes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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