Low concentrations (1–3 µg/ml) of 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) reversibly suppress pigmentation in a highly pigmented clone (B559) of cultured B16 mouse melanoma cells. We have found that unpigmented cells (clone C3471), derived by long-term culture of B559 cells in 1 µg of BrdU/ml, were completely amelanotic with no biochemically or cytochemically detectable tyrosinase activity or ultrastructural evidence of premelanosomes. The process by which pigmentation is suppressed was studied in B559 cells during a 7-day period of growth with BrdU (3 µg/ml). Assays of tyrosinase activity showed that activity was reduced after 1 day and decreased progressively, approaching zero by 7 days. A quantitatively minor part of this reduction was directly attributable to the appearance of a dialyzable inhibitor of tyrosinase activity. Acrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed two bands of activity corresponding in Rx values to the T1 and T2 forms of soluble tyrosinase. Both were progressively reduced during growth with BrdU but one form (T1) was consistently affected earlier than the other (T2). Ultrastructural-cytochemical studies also showed an early effect on the localization of tyrosinase reaction product. At day 3, reaction product was no longer present in Golgi saccules and Golgi-associated smooth surfaced tubules, but was still seen within premelanosomes, compound melanosomes, and occasional Golgi-associated vesicles. By 7 days tyrosinase reaction product was usually not demonstrable. The number of premelanosomes was progressively decreased during growth with BrdU. Premelanosomes became concentrated in the juxtanuclear region and at day 3 many were contained within abnormally large and numerous compound melanosomes. Premelanosomes and compound melanosomes were rarely seen at 7 days, by which time the cultures were nearly amelanotic. The coordinated suppression of melanogenesis by BrdU may provide a useful model in which to study the normal regulation of this process.

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