The incorporation of [2-14C]-2-thiouracil and a series of [125I]-5-iodo-2-thiouracils ([125I]ISUra(s)) into cultured Greene hamster melanoma cells was determined in order to establish their properties as false precursors in the melanin-biosynthetic pathway. The cold trichloroacetic acid-precipitable incorporation of [2-14C]-2-thiouracil as well as [125I]ISUra into melanoma cells after a 24- to 48-hr labeling period proved to be completely tyrosinase dependent (more than 99.5% inhibition could be achieved by 0.5 mm phenylthiourea). [125I]ISUra incorporation was 3-fold higher than was [2-14C]-2-thiouracil incorporation and was enhanced by 1 mm theophylline treatment. [125I]ISUra incorporation into hamster, rabbit, and human melanoma cells showed a linear relationship with cell melanin content. Methylation of the sulfur completely prevented the incorporation, while propylation but not methylation at position 6 resulted in lower incorporation. [125I]ISUra proved to be a marker for melanogenesis and may be useful in studies on the differentiation of cultured melanoma cells.

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Supported by the Netherlands Cancer Foundation (KWF Grant OH 79-77).

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