The usefulness of 4-amino-3-hydroxyphenylalanine as a specific marker of pheomelanin

Pigment Cell Res. 2002 Jun;15(3):225-32. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0749.2002.02009.x.


Reductive hydrolysis of pheomelanin with hydriodic acid (HI) gives two aminohydroxyphenylalanine isomers, 4-amino-3-hydroxyphenylalanine ('specific AHP') and 3-amino-4-hydroxyphenylalanine (3-aminotyrosine, AT), which derive from the oxidative polymerization of 5-S-cysteinyldopa, and 2-S-cysteinyldopa, respectively. Since we first introduced this analytical method, the combined amount of AHP and AT ('total AHP') has been extensively used as a marker of pheomelanin. However, one problem with using total AHP as a marker is that background levels originate from precursors other than pheomelanin. Considerable and variable amounts of background AT are produced from other sources, most likely nitrotyrosine residues in proteins. In order to overcome this problem, we developed HPLC conditions which enable the direct injection of the HI reduction products into the HPLC system allowing good separation of AHP and AT. In this way we could study the importance of both degradation products separately and their specificity as markers for pheomelanin. The usefulness of the present method is validated using human hair samples of various colours which were divided into dark, fair or red colours. The combined amount of specific AHP and AT shows an excellent correlation with total AHP, and the amount of specific AHP also correlates with the amount of total AHP. We also examined total AHP and specific AHP values against pyrrole-2,3,5-tricarboxylic acid (PTCA) values in the human hair samples. These results show that specific AHP measurement gives a more prominent segregation for the ratio of specific AHP to PTCA among hairs of various colours than the ratio of total AHP to PTCA. Thus, we conclude that 'specific AHP' is a more specific marker of pheomelanin than is 'total AHP'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biochemistry / methods*
  • Biomarkers / chemistry
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hair / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Chemical
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Thiazines / chemistry
  • Time Factors
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism*


  • 1,4-benzothiazine
  • Biomarkers
  • Melanins
  • Thiazines
  • pheomelanin
  • eumelanin
  • 3-aminotyrosine
  • 3-nitrotyrosine
  • Tyrosine
  • 4-amino-3-hydroxyphenylalanine