Bacterial tyrosinases

Syst Appl Microbiol. 2006 Jan;29(1):3-14. doi: 10.1016/j.syapm.2005.07.012. Epub 2005 Sep 6.


Tyrosinases are nearly ubiquitously distributed in all domains of life. They are essential for pigmentation and are important factors in wound healing and primary immune response. Their active site is characterized by a pair of antiferromagnetically coupled copper ions, CuA and CuB, which are coordinated by six histidine residues. Such a "type 3 copper centre" is the common feature of tyrosinases, catecholoxidases and haemocycanins. It is also one of several other copper types found in the multi-copper oxidases (ascorbate oxidase, laccase). The copper pair of tyrosinases binds one molecule of atmospheric oxygen to catalyse two different kinds of enzymatic reactions: (1) the ortho-hydroxylation of monophenols (cresolase activity) and (2) the oxidation of o-diphenols to o-diquinones (catecholase activity). The best-known function is the formation of melanins from L-tyrosine via L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa). The complicated hydroxylation mechanism at the active centre is still not completely understood, because nothing is known about their tertiary structure. One main reason for this deficit is that hitherto tyrosinases from eukaryotic sources could not be isolated in sufficient quantities and purities for detailed structural studies. This is not the case for prokaryotic tyrosinases from different Streptomyces species, having been intensively characterized genetically and spectroscopically for decades. The Streptomyces tyrosinases are non-modified monomeric proteins with a low molecular mass of ca. 30kDa. They are secreted to the surrounding medium, where they are involved in extracellular melanin production. In the species Streptomyces, the tyrosinase gene is part of the melC operon. Next to the tyrosinase gene (melC2), this operon contains an additional ORF called melC1, which is essential for the correct expression of the enzyme. This review summarizes the present knowledge of bacterial tyrosinases, which are promising models in order to get more insights in structure, enzymatic reactions and functions of "type 3 copper" proteins in general.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Copper / chemistry
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Hemocyanins / chemistry
  • Melanins / genetics
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / chemistry
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Melanins
  • Copper
  • Hemocyanins
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase