KENBIKYO Vol.48▶No.1 2013

The Molecular Mechanisms of Biogenesis, Maturation, and Transport of Melanosomes

Morié Ishida, Norihiko Ohbayashi, Ayaka Yatsu and Mitsunori Fukuda

Abstract: Melanosomes are tissue-specific organelles that synthesize and store “black” melanins in pigment cells. Melanosomes are visible even under a primitive light microscope, and by taking advantage of this nature they have been studied for more than 150 years. In the long history of the melanosome research, many protocols of isolation and purification of melanosomes have been established, and recent analyses of human or mouse hereditary diseases with hypopigmentation have revealed a variety of molecules that are necessary for proper functions of melanosomes. Here, we describe basic features of melanosomes and provide a historical overview of the molecular mechanisms of biogenesis, maturation, and transport of melanosomes in mammalian melanocytes.

Key words: melanocyte, small GTPase Rab, hypopigmentation, lysosome-related organelle, membrane traffic