Tyrosinase gene expression in human tissues

Pigment Cell Res. 1993 Dec;6(6):400-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0749.1993.tb00622.x.


The occasional occurrence of primary extra-cutaneous malignant melanomas (MM) has led to the hypothesis that melanocytes derived from the neural crest may be arrested in their migration and may undergo an in situ malignant transformation. However, aggregates of nevus cells have only rarely been identified by histological examination in a few organs other than skin and eye. Tyrosinase is a melanin biosynthetic enzyme that is considered one of the most specific markers of melanocytic differentiation. We have attempted to detect cells committed to the melanocytic lineage, in human tissues, by means of tyrosinase gene expression. Total RNA was extracted from normal and neoplastic tissues and analyzed using a highly sensitive reverse transcription PCR assay with primers specific for the tyrosinase gene. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from healthy subjects were used as negative controls. Tyrosinase transcripts were identified in a wide range of normal organs such as skin, lymph nodes, antrum, colon, kidney, lung, testis, ovary, breast, and peripheral nerve. Tyrosinase RNA was also detected in neoplastic samples including benign cutaneous nevi, lymph nodes involved by MM, breast carcinoma, liposarcoma, malignant lymphoma, and schwannoma. PBMC from patients with metastatic MM were also positive, while no positivity was detected in blood specimens from patients with other cancers. Therefore, it appears likely that cells expressing the tyrosinase gene are present in a wide range of human tissues. Although these cells still have to be accurately identified, one could propose that they might correspond to either fully differentiated melanocytes, melanocytic precursors, or Schwann cells bearing potentialities of melanocytic differentiation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / enzymology
  • Lymph Nodes / enzymology
  • Melanocytes / enzymology*
  • Melanoma / enzymology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA / analysis
  • Skin / enzymology


  • RNA
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase