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Keywords:

  • Autoradiography;
  • Malignant melanoma;
  • Melanin affinity;
  • Parkinsonism

Various drugs and other chemicals, such as organic amines, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, etc., are bound to melanin and retained in pigmented tissues for long periods. The physiological significance of the binding is not evident, but it has been suggested that the melanin protects the pigmented cells and adjacent tissues by adsorbing potentially harmful substances, which then are slowly released in nontoxic concentrations. Long-term exposure, on the other hand, may build up high levels of noxious chemicals, stored on the melanin, which ultimately may cause degeneration in the melanin-containing cells, and secondary lesions in surrounding tissues. In the eye, e.g., and in the inner ear, the pigmented cells are located close to the receptor cells, and melanin binding may be an important factor in the development of some ocular and inner ear lesions. In the brain, neuromelanin is present in nerve cells in the extrapyramidal system, and the melanin affinity of certain neurotoxic agents may be involved in the development of parkinsonism, and possibly tardive dyskinesia. In recent years, various carcinogenic compounds have been found to accumulate selectively in the pigment cells of experimental animals, and there are many indications of a connection between the melanin affinity of these agents and the induction of malignant melanoma.