Pigmentation in mammals is under complex genetic control. Amongst the genes involved in this process, those encoding tyrosinase and the tyrosinase-related-proteins 1 and 2 have been well characterized and share a number of features. Recently, the murine tyrosinase-related-protein-2 gene was shown to encode dopachrome-tautomerase activity and was mapped to the slaty locus. Human tyrosinase and tyrosinase-related-protein-1 genes have been isolated and demonstrate a high degree of similarity with their murine counterparts. However, there has been limited data regarding the existence of a human homologue for tyrosinase-related-protein-2 and its relationship to the other tyrosinase-related proteins. In this study, we report the molecular isolation of a cDNA encoding a human homologue of the murine tyrosinase-related-protein-2/dopachrome tautomerase. We have characterized its expression in human melanocytic cells and have analyzed the relationship between dopachrome tautomerase and tyrosinase activities with the level of visible pigmentation in these cells. TYRP2 has been mapped to the chromosomal region 13q32, thus extending a region of synteny with mouse-chromosome 14.