Bomirski Ab amelanotic melanoma cells have recently been shown to undergo striking phenotypic changes when precursors of the melanogenic pathway, L-tyrosine and L-dopa, are added to the culture medium. The changes include increased tyrosinase activity and de novo synthesis of melanosomes and melanin. L-tyrosine and L-dopa appeared to elicit these responses through separate but overlapping regulatory pathways. Here we show an additional effect of L-tyrosine: stimulation of MSH binding capacity. Cells cultured for 24–48 hours in the presence of 200 μM L-tyrosine display a 3–4 fold increase in their ability to bind125l-β-MSH. L-dopa did not stimulate MSH binding under the same conditions. In control experiments neither L-tyrosine nor L-dopa had any effect on insulin binding. The amelanotic cells respond to MSH with increased dendrite formation, increased tyrosinase activity without melanin production, and decreased growth rate.

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