Mutations in the human P gene result in oculocutaneous albinism type 2, the most common form of albinism. Mouse melan-p1 melanocytes, cultured from mice null at the homologous pink-eyed dilution (p) locus, exhibit defective melanin production. A variety of compounds including tyrosine, NH4Cl, bafilomycin A1, concanamycin, monensin, and nigericin are capable of restoring melanin synthesis in these cells. In the current study, we investigated the subcellular effects of bafilomycin A1 and monensin treatment of melan-p1 cells. Both agents play two roles in the processing of tyrosinase (Tyr) in melan-p1 cells. First, combined glycosidase digestion and immunoblotting analysis showed that these agents reduce levels of Tyr retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and facilitate the release of Tyr from the ER to the Golgi. Secondly, treatment with these compounds resulted in the stabilization of Tyr. Surprisingly, induction of melanin synthesis corresponds more closely with diminution of ER-retained Tyr, rather than the absolute amount of Tyr. Our results suggest that bafilomycin A1 and monensin induce melanin synthesis in melan-p1 cells mainly by facilitating Tyr processing from the ER to the Golgi by increasing the pH in either the ER or the ER-Golgi intermediate compartment.