Melanosomes in black and red human hair are isolated and characterized by various chemical and physical techniques. Different yields of 4-amino-hydroxyphenolanaline by HI hydrolysis (a marker for pheomelanin) and pyrrole-2,3,5-tricarboxylic acid by KMnO4/H oxidation (a marker for eumelanin) indicate that the melanosomes in black hair are eumelanosomes, whereas those in red hair are mainly pheomelanosomes. Atomic force microscopy reveals that eumelanosomes and pheomelanosomes have ellipsoidal and spherical shapes, respectively. Eumelanosomes maintain structural integrity upon extraction from the keratin matrix, whereas pheomelanosomes tend to fall apart. The black-hair eumelanosomes have an average of 14.6 ± 0.5% amino acids content, which is attributed to the internal proteins entrapped in the melanosomes granules. The red-hair melanosomes contain more than 44% of amino acid content even after extensive proteolytic digestion. This high content of amino acids and the poorly reserved integrity of red-hair melanosomes suggest that some proteins are possibly covalently bonded with the melanin constituents in addition to those that are entrapped inside the melanin species. Soluene solubilization assay indicates the absorbance of melanin per gram of sample, adjusted for the amino acid content, is a factor of 2.9 greater for the black-hair melanosomes than the red-hair melanosomes. Metal analysis reveals significant amounts of diverse heavy metal ions bound to the two types of melanosomes. The amount of Cu(II) and Zn(II) are similar but Fe(III) content is four times higher in the red-hair melanosomes. 13C solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectra and infrared spectra are presented and are shown to be powerful techniques for discerning differences in the amino acid contents, the 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylic acid:5,6-dihydroxyindole ratio, and the degree of cross-linking in the pigment. Excellent agreement is observed between these spectral results and the chemical degradation data.
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Vol. 81 • No. 1