Melanin and Neuromelanin: Linking Skin Pigmentation and Parkinson's Disease

Talia Krainc, Mariana H.G. Monje, Morgan Kinsinger, Bernabe I. Bustos, Steven J. Lubbe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Neuromelanin-containing dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) are the most vulnerable neurons in Parkinson's disease (PD). Recent work suggests that the accumulation of oxidized dopamine and neuromelanin mediate the convergence of mitochondrial and lysosomal dysfunction in patient-derived neurons. In addition, the expression of human tyrosinase in mouse SNpc led to the formation of neuromelanin resulting in the degeneration of nigral dopaminergic neurons, further highlighting the importance of neuromelanin in PD. The potential role of neuromelanin in PD pathogenesis has been supported by epidemiological observations, whereby individuals with lighter pigmentation or cutaneous malignant melanoma exhibit higher incidence of PD. Because neuromelanin and melanin share many functional characteristics and overlapping biosynthetic pathways, it has been postulated that genes involved in skin pigmentation and melanin formation may play a role in the susceptibility of vulnerable midbrain dopaminergic neurons to neurodegeneration. Here, we highlight potential mechanisms that may explain the link between skin pigmentation and PD, focusing on the role of skin pigmentation genes in the pathogenesis of PD. We also discuss the importance of genetic ancestry in assessing the contribution of pigmentation-related genes to risk of PD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-195
Number of pages11
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Parkinson's disease; pigmentation; melanoma; neuromelanin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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