Redox Activities of Melanins Investigated by Electrochemical Reverse Engineering: Implications for their Roles in Oxidative Stress

J Invest Dermatol. 2020 Mar;140(3):537-543. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2019.09.010. Epub 2019 Dec 4.


Melanins, the main epidermal pigments of man, have been viewed traditionally as performing photoprotective and antioxidant functions, yet increasing evidence indicates they also possess detrimental pro-oxidant activities. Understanding this duality in functional activity (anti- vs. pro-oxidant) is important because oxidative stress is believed to play a central role in melanoma pathophysiology. Here, we review current knowledge of melanin's structure and functional activities and their relevance to redox biology and oxidative stress. We especially focus on recent efforts to develop an in vitro experimental methodology to characterize melanin's redox activities and suggest the implications of these in vitro observations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biosynthetic Pathways / physiology
  • Chemical Engineering / methods*
  • Epidermis / pathology*
  • Epidermis / physiology
  • Epidermis / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Melanins / chemistry
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Melanoma / etiology
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Melanins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species