Historically, studies on the maturation and intracellular transport of melanosomes in melanocytes have greatly contributed to elucidating the general mechanisms of intracellular transport in many different types of mammalian cells. During melanosome maturation, melanosome cargoes including melanogenic enzymes (e.g. tyrosinase) are transported from endosomes to immature melanosomes by membrane trafficking, which must require a membrane fusion process likely regulated by SNAREs [soluble NSF (N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor) attachment protein receptors]. In the present study, we review the literature concerning the expression and function of SNAREs (e.g. v-SNARE vesicle-associated membrane protein 7 and t-SNAREs syntaxin-3/13 and synaptosomal-associated protein-23) in melanocytes, especially in regard to the fusion process in which melanosome cargoes are finally delivered to immature melanosomes. We also describe the recent discovery of the SNARE recycling system on mature melanosomes in melanocytes. Such SNARE dynamics, especially the SNARE recycling system, on melanosomes will be useful in understanding as yet unidentified SNARE dynamics on other organelles.

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