Positive regulation of melanin pigmentation by two key substrates of the melanogenic pathway, L-tyrosine and L-dopa

J Cell Sci. 1988 Mar;89 ( Pt 3):287-96.


We describe results demonstrating the positive regulation of melanogenesis by two substrates of the melanogenic pathway. We have found that L-tyrosine and L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa), whose metabolic fates are affected by the activity of that pathway, can also act as its regulators. In living pigment cells, tyrosinase (EC, a crucial and rate-limiting enzyme of melanogenesis, acts in subcellular organelles known as melanosomes. Melanin is laid down only in these organelles. We demonstrate that supplementing Ham's F-10 medium with additional L-tyrosine or L-dopa during the culture of amelanotic Bomirski hamster melanoma cells results in a rapid increase in melanin formation, which is not simply due to greater availability of substrate. There is a rapid increase in tyrosinase activity and a large scale synthesis of melanosomes. The effects of L-tyrosine and L-dopa are prevented by the addition of cycloheximide. The actions of L-tyrosine and L-dopa are specific in that under similar conditions D-tyrosine, D-dopa, N-acetyl-L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, L-tryptophan and L-valine have little or no effect. The two substrates, L-tyrosine and L-dopa, appear to act through related but distinct mechanisms. Our findings provide an example of a little-known phenomenon: regulation of a differentiated eukaryotic phenotype through positive control by substrates in the pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • Levodopa / physiology*
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Melanocytes / physiology
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tyrosine / physiology*


  • Melanins
  • Tyrosine
  • Levodopa
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase