• agouti locus;
  • lethal yellow gene;
  • MSH;
  • dibutyryl cyclic AMP


Alleles at the agouti locus determines the type of pigment produced in hair-bulb melanocytes. In order to analyze the mechanism of agouti gene function, an attempt was made to induce the shift in melanin synthesis in vitro. Skin explants from newborn yellow mice with genotype Ay/a were cultured with the method using membrane-filter and roller tube. Production of black pigment in the hair bulbs was observed when the explants were cultured in the presence of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH). Electron-microscopic observation indicates that the induced black pigments are eumelanin that is normally found in hair-bulb melanocytes of genotypically black mice. The eumelanin synthesis was also induced by cAMP, DbcAMP, or theophylline. This α-MSH-induced eumelanin synthesis was suppressed by actinomycin D or cycloheximide, suggesting that the α-MSH-induced eumelanogenesis requires de novo transcription and/or translation.