Current Topics in Medical Mycology

Volume 2 of the series Current Topics in Medical Mycology pp 338-387

Melanins and Their Importance in Pathogenic Fungi

  • Michael H. Wheeler
  • , Alois A. Bell

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Melanins are generally described as dark brown or black pigments of high molecular weight formed by oxidative polymerization of phenolic compounds. Certain yellow, red, green, purple, or blue pigments have similar chemical structures and occasionally are referred to as types of melanins. Melanins are found in humans and various other warm- and cold-blooded vertebrates; invertebrates, including insects; higher plants; fungi; and bacteria, including actinomycetes. Most animal melanins are synthesized by tyrosinase, whereas a number of less specific polyphenol oxidases may form melanins in various cellular and extracellular environments of other organisms. In some cases melanins are autoxidative products made in the absence of enzymes.