Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by the reduction or complete lack of melanin pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. No effective treatment for OCA is available at present. OCA type 1 is caused by mutations that disrupt the function of tyrosinase (TYR), the rate-limiting enzyme of melanin synthesis. Recently, it was shown that tyrosinase in some patients with OCA type 1 mutation is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum and that its catalytic activity is lost, a phenomenon known as endoplasmic reticulum retention. However, to our knowledge, the intracellular localization of tyrosinase in Japanese patients with OCA type 1 missense mutations has not been reported. In this study, we first investigated the intracellular localization of Japanese OCA type 1A missense mutant tyrosinases using Western blotting and immunohistochemical staining. R77Q, R239W, D383N, and P431L mutant tyrosinases were retained in the endoplasmic reticulum, and H211Y mutant tyrosinase was partially transported to the Golgi apparatus. Second, we explored the possibility of chemical chaperone therapy for Japanese patients with OCA type 1A missense mutations and found that HeLa cells expressing P431L mutant tyrosinase have restored tyrosinase activity after treatment with a low-dose tyrosinase inhibitor, as a chemical chaperone, in a dose-dependent manner. These results provide the basis for a possible chemical chaperone therapy to recover tyrosinase activities in patients with OCA type 1A patients.
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