The mouse pink-eyed dilution (p) locus is known to control the melanin content in melanocytes. However, it was not known whether the p gene is involved in regulating the proliferation and differentation of melanocytes during development, especially the biogenesis of melanosomes and other organelles. Epidermal cell suspensions of neonatal dorsal skin derived from mice wild type for the p locus (black, C57BL/10JHir-P/P) and their congenic mutant phenotype (pink-eyed dilution, C57BL/10JHir-p/p) were cultured in serum-free melanocyte-proliferation medium (MDMD). The supplement of additional L-tyrosine (Tyr) into the MDMD stimulated the differentiation of p/p melanoblasts into melanocytes. Electron microscopy revealed that in p/p melanoblasts and melanocytes treated with L-Tyr, the number of stage II and III melanosomes dramatically increased. Moreover, p/p melanoblasts possessed smaller but more numerous mitochondria than P/P melanocytes. The treatment of p/p melanoblasts and melanocytes with L-Tyr decreased the number of mitochondria. The supplement of 2, 4-dinitrophenol (DNP), an inhibitor of mitochondrial function, into the MDMD stimulated both the proliferation and differentiation of p/p melanoblasts. Simultaneous treatment of DNP and L-Tyr dramatically stimulated the differetiation of p/p melanocytes. These results suggest that L-Tyr and some unknown factors related to mitochondrial function may influence the differentiation of melanoblasts in the epidermis of p/p mice.
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