Tyrosine is the endogenous substrate for melanin production within melanosomes, but the method of tyrosine transport into the melanosome has not been investigated. In the mouse, melanogenesis is disrupted by mutations in the p gene resulting in the pink-eyed dilution phenotype; it has been suggested that the p gene codes for a tyrosine transport protein. We determined that normal (melan-a) melanosome-rich granular fractions take up 10 microns [3H]tyrosine at 21.1 +/- 6.1 (SEM, standard error of the mean) pmol/min/mg protein (N = 7) compared with 21.3 +/- 5.8 SEM pmol/min/mg protein (N = 5) for pink-eyed dilution, whose plasma membrane tyrosine transport was also normal (Km 89 microM; Vmax 302 pmol/min/mg cell protein). We also demonstrated that pink-eyed dilution melanosomes are immature by virtue of their low density, high hexosaminidase activity, and lack of pigment. These data indicate that a tyrosine transport system exists in the melanosomal membrane and that the p gene does not encode a tyrosine transporter of critical importance.