Variations in melanin formation by cultured melanocytes from different skin types

Nico P M Smit*, Ria M. Kolb, Eef G W M Lentjes, Käthe C. Noz, Hans Van Der Meulen, Henk K. Koerten, Bert Jan Vermeer, Stan Pavel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    40 Citations (Scopus)


    In many laboratories, culturing skin melanocytes has become a routine research activity. However, recent investigations have revealed that the quality and quantity of the pigment formed in the cultured cells may differ significantly from those of the original skin pigment cells. To shed more light on this issue, we examined the influence of different culture media on pigment production. We showed that there were notable passage-to-passage variations in the synthesis of melanin. This was particularly true for phaeomelanin. It is therefore advisable to analyse the melanin in the cells before the start of experiments. In spite of the variations, basic differences in the pigmentation pattern between melanocytes isolated from light-skinned and dark-skinned individuals remained preserved in the corresponding cultures as observed by electron microscopy. Also, the total melanin content was higher in a skin type VI melanocyte culture than in skin type I and II melanocyte cultures. In contrast to total melanin, the phaeomelanin concentration of skin type VI cells was similar to that of the skin type I melanocytes. With higher L-tyrosine concentrations in the medium, as well as increased eumelanin synthesis, phaeomelanogenesis was also stimulated in all cultures tested. This stimulation was particularly prominent in skin type I melanocytes. Our preliminary experiments also showed that a melanocyte culture from atypical naevus cells exhibited a similar preference for phaeomelanogenesis when pigmentation was stimulated.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)342-349
    Number of pages8
    JournalArchives of Dermatological Research
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 1998


    • Atypical nevus
    • Cell culture
    • Melanin
    • Melanocyte
    • Phaeomelanin
    • Tyrosinase


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