Formation, Chemical Composition and Function of Melanin Pigments

  • Kowichi Jimbow
  • Thomas B. Fitzpatrick
  • Walter C. QuevedoJr.


Pigments of the mammalian skin may be divided into four major classes; (a) brown-black pigments of melanin, (b) yellow pigments of carotinoid, (c) red pigments of oxygenated hemoglobulin and (d) blue pigments of reduced hemoglobulin. The major determinant of skin pigmentation is melanin. Pigmentation is related to the number, size, type, and distribution pattern of melanin-containing cytoplasmic particles, i.e. melanosomes (Seiji et al. 1961; Jimbow et al. 1976). The melanosomes are products of secretory cells, melanocytes, that are present in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanocytes transfer their product, melanosomes, into keratinocytes, and they become distributed throughout the epidermis by the upward movement of basal keratinocytes. The symbiotic interaction of these different cells, i.e. melanocytes and the associated pool of keratinocytes, is called epidermal melanin unit (Fitzpatrick and Breathnach 1963) (Fig. 1, cf. Fig. 1, Chap.12,this Vol.).


Electron Spin Resonance Melanin Pigment Melanin Pigmentation Epidermal Melanin Cysteamine Hydrochloride 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kowichi Jimbow
    • 1
  • Thomas B. Fitzpatrick
    • 2
  • Walter C. QuevedoJr.
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of DermatologySapporo Medical CollegeSapporo 060Japan
  2. 2.Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Division of Biology and MedicineBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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