Mutations in the P gene of humans and the homologous p-locus of mice, respectively, result in the homologous disorders oculocutaneous albinism type 2 (OCA2) and pink-eyed dilution. Although clearly required for melanin biosynthesis, the specific function of the P gene product, a melanosomal transmembrane protein expressed in melanocytes of the skin, hair, and eyes, is not yet known. Here we describe lines of immortal melanocytes and melanoblasts from mice of the null genotype p(cp)/p(25H). These p-null melanocytes were severely hypopigmented, although they and the melanoblasts expressed mRNAs for a number of melanosomal proteins. Proliferation of the p-null melanoblasts was normal. Both diploid and immortal p-null melanocytes grew more slowly than wild-type melanocytes, however, and were unusually susceptible to the antibiotic G418; these abnormalities were corrected by culture in high concentrations of L-tyrosine. Transfection of the p-null melanocytes with full-length normal human P cDNA resulted in complementation of deficient melanin biosynthesis and hypopigmentation. In contrast, transfection with mutant human P cDNAs containing amino acid substitutions (A481T, V443I) found in patients with OCA2 resulted in minimal or partial correction, consistent with the corresponding pigmentation phenotypes in patients with these mutations. These results demonstrate the utility of this model system for distinguishing true OCA2 mutations from nonpathologic polymorphisms and for quantitating the effect of these mutations on P function.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology