From tyrosine to melanin: Signaling pathways and factors regulating melanogenesis

Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2016 Jun 30;70(0):695-708. doi: 10.5604/17322693.1208033.


Melanins are natural pigments of skin, hair and eyes and can be classified into two main types: brown to black eumelanin and yellow to reddish-brown pheomelanin. Biosynthesis of melanins takes place in melanosomes, which are specialized cytoplasmic organelles of melanocytes - dendritic cells located in the basal layer of the epidermis, uveal tract of the eye, hair follicles, as well as in the inner ear, central nervous system and heart. Melanogenesis is a multistep process and begins with the conversion of amino acid L-tyrosine to DOPAquinone. The addition of cysteine or glutathione to DOPAquinone leads to the intermediates formation, followed by subsequent transformations and polymerization to the final product, pheomelanin. In the absence of thiol compounds DOPAquinone undergoes an intramolecular cyclization and oxidation to form DOPAchrome, which is then converted to 5,6-dihydroksyindole (DHI) or 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylic acid (DHICA). Eumelanin is formed by polymerization of DHI and DHICA and their quinones. Regulation of melanogenesis is achieved by physical and biochemical factors. The article presents the intracellular signaling pathways: cAMP/PKA/CREB/MITF cascade, MAP kinases cascade, PLC/DAG/PKCβ cascade and NO/cGMP/PKG cascade, which are involved in the regulation of expression and activity of the melanogenesis-related proteins by ultraviolet radiation and endogenous agents (cytokines, hormones). Activity of the key melanogenic enzyme, tyrosinase, is also affected by pH and temperature. Many pharmacologically active substances are able to inhibit or stimulate melanin biosynthesis, as evidenced by in vitro studies on cultured pigment cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzoquinones / metabolism
  • Cytokines
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine / analogs & derivatives
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine / biosynthesis
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Hormones
  • Humans
  • Indolequinones / biosynthesis
  • Indolequinones / metabolism
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Melanosomes / metabolism*
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Benzoquinones
  • Cytokines
  • Hormones
  • Indolequinones
  • Indoles
  • Melanins
  • pheomelanin
  • eumelanin
  • dopachrome
  • Tyrosine
  • 5,6-dihydroxy-2-indolylcarboxylic acid
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine
  • dopaquinone
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase