The dermal melanocyte system of the Syrian hamster is particularly responsive to the melanogenetic and tumor-inducing effects of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA). The melanocytes of the hair follicles appear to be susceptible to the melanogenetic effect of DMBA but not to its tumor-inducing effect. The epidermal melanocytes are non-pigmented and are unresponsive to both melanogenetic and carcinogenic effects of DMBA. The pigmented granules of the dermal melanocytes of both the golden and the white hamster have an identical substructure and pattern of melanization which occurs in an orderly fashion on a delicate fibrillar component. The hair melanocytes have larger pigment granules with a more complicated fibrillar substructure. The epidermal melanocytes do not possess pigment granules but are recognized by their dendritic shape, the absence of desmosomes and tonofilaments, and the presence of racket-shaped or rod-shaped organelles. The melanin granules in neoplastic melanocytes of the golden hamster differ from corresponding normal melanocytes only in their larger size. In the white hamster, however, the melanin granules in tumors produced under identical experimental conditions are so bizarre and atypical that consideration was given to the possibility that a genetic difference in the melanization pattern between the two varieties becomes apparent in carcinogen-induced melanotic tumors. No definite conclusions could be reached as to the precise origin of the melanin granules in either normal or neoplastic melanocytes.

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