Relationship of melanin degradation products to actual melanin content: Application to human hair

Chad R. Borges, Jeanette C. Roberts, Diana G. Wilkins, Douglas E. Rollins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Methods not only for characterizing but also for quantitating melanin subtypes from the two types of melanin found in hair - eumelanin and pheomelanin - have been established. In relation to testing for drugs of abuse in hair, these methods will allow for correction of drug binding to specific melanin sub-types and will serve to improve drug measurement in hair. 5,6-Dihydroxyindole (DHI) and 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylic acid (DHICA) make up the majority of the eumelanin polymer while benzothiazene units derived from 2-cysteinyl-S-Dopa (2-Cys-Dopa) and 5-cysteinyl-S-Dopa (5-CysDopa) compose the majority of the pheomelanin polymer. Our results show that: (1) pyrrole-2,3-dicarboxylic acid (PDCA) and pyrrole-2,3,5-tricarboxylic acid (PTCA), markers for DHI and DHICA units, respectively, are produced in 0.37 and 4.8% yields, respectively, when melanins are subjected to alkaline hydrogen peroxide degradation, (2) 3-aminotyrosine (3AT) and 4-amino-3-hydroxyphenylalanine (AHP), markers for 2-CysDopa and 5-CysDopa, respectively, are produced in 16 and 23% yield, respectively, when subjected to hydriodic acid hydrolysis, and (3) that black human hair contains approximately 99% eumelanin and 1% pheomelanin, brown and blond hair contain 95% eumelanin and 5% pheomelanin; and red hair contains 67% eumelanin and 33% pheomelanin. These data will allow deeper investigation into the relationship between melanin composition and drug incorporation into hair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-125
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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