Reactivity to tyrosinase: Expression in cancer (melanoma) and autoimmunity (vitiligo)

Ofer Merimsky, Yehuda Shoenfeld, Ehud Baharav, Rosa Zigelman, Pnina Fishman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anti-tyrosinase antibodies are found in the sera of patients with diffuse vitiligo, metastatic melanoma and in sera of patients with melanoma and hypopigmentation (MAH). The autoantigen is tyrosinase itself, the enzyme that participates in pigment (melanin) formation by both melanocytes and melanoma cells. The production of autoantibodies in both diseases is associated with the development of white patches on the patients’ skin. The presence of these autoantibodies in patients with melanoma may suggest a better prognosis. Cross-antigenicity between melanoma cells and normal melanocytes is most probably the key mechanism leading to the appearance of MAN Anti-tyrosinase antibodies are absorbed by melanocytes and by melanoma cells in all the 3 situations (melanoma, vitiligo, MAH). However, since the production of antibodies in vitiligo exceeds that in melanoma or MAH, the antibodies are detected in significantly higher levels only in vitiligo. It is suggested here that anti-tyrosinase antibodies may be responsible, or at least participate in destruction of normal melanocytes during the immune response to melanoma antigens. This mechanism may be responsible for the phenomenon of MAH in patients with melanoma, and for the formation of the autoimmune vitiligo. Anti-tyrosinase antibodies may serve for two clinical applications. One is a marker for monitoring and follow up of patients with melanoma treated by immune therapy. The second is active (or passive) immunotherapy. We have recently shown that C57BLl6J mice immunized with tyrosinase generated a high titer of antityrosinase antibodies, and following the inoculation of melanoma cells developed lower number of lling metastases, compared to the unvaccinated control group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-156
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Antibodies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Anti-tyrosinase antibodies
  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigen
  • Autoimmunity
  • Melanoma
  • Melanoma-associated hypopigmentation
  • Tyrosinase
  • Vitiligo


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