The regulation of the final steps of the melanogenesis pathway, after L-2-carboxy-2,3-dihydroindole-5,6-quinone (dopachrome) formation, is studied. It is shown that both tyrosinase and dopachrome tautomerase are involved in the process. In vivo, it seems that tyrosinase is involved in the regulation of the amount of melanin formed, whereas dopachrome tautomerase is mainly involved in the size, structure and composition of melanin, by regulating to the incorporation of 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylic acid (DHICA) into the polymer. Moreover, using L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa) and related compounds, it was shown that the presence of dopachrome tautomerase mediates an initial acceleration of melanogenesis since L-dopachrome is rapidly transformed to DHICA, but that melanin formation is inhibited because of the stability of this carboxylated indole compared to 5,6-dihydroxyindole (DHI), its decarboxylated counterpart obtained by spontaneous decarboxylation of L-dopachrome. Using L-dopa methyl ester as a precursor of melanogenesis, it is shown that this carboxylated indole does not polymerize in the absence of DHI, even in the presence of tyrosinase. However, it is incorporated into the polymer in the presence of both tyrosinase and DHI. Thus, this study suggests that DHI is essential for melanin formation, and the rate of polymerization depends on the ratio between DHICA and DHI in the medium. In the melanosome, this ratio should be regulated by the ratio between the activities of dopachrome tautomerase and tyrosinase.
Tyrosine (EC 126.96.36.199)
dopachrome tautomerase (EC 188.8.131.52)
catalase (EC 184.108.40.206)
peroxidase (EC 220.127.116.11)
catechol methyltransferase (EC 18.104.22.168)