Skin-nontumor / Clinical dermatology

Author: Mowafak Hamodat MB.CH.B, MSc., FRCPC (see Authors page)

Revised: 19 May 2016, last major update August 2010

Copyright: (c) 2002-2016,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Melanocytes [title]

Cite this page: Melanocytes. website. Accessed October 21st, 2016.
Definition / General
  • Neural crest origin
  • In basal epidermis, hair follicles, most squamous mucous membranes, leptomeninges
  • The ratio of melanocytes to basal cells ranges from approximately 1 : 4 on the cheek to 1 : 10 on the limbs
  • Contain dendrites, delicate cytoplasmic processes that extend between keratinocytes
  • Upwards or lateral migration within epidermis or into papillary dermis does not necessarily indicate malignancy
  • Cytoplasm is clear due to retraction, nuclei typically are smaller and slightly more hyperchromatic than nuclei of adjacent keratinocytes, have uniform chromatin, indented nuclear contour, no nucleoli
  • Produce melanin from tyrosine, transfer it (via cytocrinia) to adjacent epithelial cells to protect against ultraviolet rays
  • Racial skin color is due to amount of melanin in keratinocytes, not number of melanocytes
Diagrams / Tables

Images hosted on other servers:

Skin and melanocytes

Positive Stains
  • Fontana - Masson, tyrosinase, S100, NSE, MelanA / Mart1, microphthalmia transcription factor, vimentin, bcl2, HMB45 (activated melanocytes)
  • Variable keratin in activated melanocytes
Negative Stains
  • GFAP, neurofilament; HMB45 and keratin in resting melanocytes
Electron Microscopy Description
  • Melanosomes: melanin-synthesizing organelle derived from Golgi
Differential Diagnosis
  • Melanoblasts: immature counterpart
  • Melanophages: macrophages with ingested melanin
Additional References