By Michelle Mukonyora
2 June 2016
Melanin is more than the pigment that is responsible for our diverse skin, hair and eye colours. It helps protect the DNA in our skin and eyes from damage by the sun’s UV rays. People who do not produce enough melanin suffer from disorders such as albinism, vitiligo, as well as susceptibility to cancers of the skin and eyes. If we figure out how melanin production is controlled, we can then begin to find ways to treat melanin production disorders.
Melanosomes are the melanin producing factories found inside melanin producing cells. They comprise small compartments encapsulated by a membrane (Figure 1).
Now that the role of TPC2 is known, we can figure out what mutations cause it to malfunction. This is the first step in finding ways to treat TPC2-related disorders. Controlling the activity of TPC2 may prove to be tricky because it also controls ion movements across other important membranes in the cell. A possible way of circumventing this would be through the targeted delivery of drug molecules to melanosomes.
Read more: Bellono, N. W et al. (2014) An intracellular anion channel critical for pigmentation. eLife3:e04543. doi:10.7554/eLife.04543.018