Scanning transmission X-ray microscopic analysis of purified melanosomes of the mouse iris

Michael G. Anderson*, Tamás Haraszti, Greg E. Petersen, Sue Wirick, Chris Jacobsen, Simon W M John, Michael Grunze

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Melanosomes are specialized intracellular membrane bound organelles that produce and store melanin pigment. The composition of melanin and distribution of melanosomes determine the color of many mammalian tissues, including the hair, skin, and iris. However, the presence of melanosomes within a tissue carries potentially detrimental risks related to the cytotoxic indole-quinone intermediates produced during melanin synthesis. In order to study melanosomal molecules, including melanin and melanin-related intermediates, we have refined methods allowing spectromicroscopic analysis of purified melanosomes using scanning transmission X-ray microscopy. Here, we present for the first time absorption data for melanosomes at the carbon absorption edge ranging from 284 to 290 eV. High-resolution images of melanosomes at discrete energies demonstrate that fully melanized mature melanosomes are internally non-homogeneous, suggesting the presence of an organized internal sub-structure. Spectra of purified melanosomes are complex, partially described by a predominating absorption band at 288.4 eV with additional contributions from several minor bands. Differences in these spectra were detectable between samples from two strains of inbred mice known to harbor genetically determined melanosomal differences, DBA/2J and C57BL/6J, and are likely to represent signatures arising from biologically relevant and tractable phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-698
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Mammalian genetics
  • Melanin
  • Organelle structure-function
  • Synchrotron radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


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