We recently reported the establishment of transgenic mouse lines carrying the mouse metallothionein/ret fusion gene in which severe melanosis and melanocytic tumors developed. In the present study, we demonstrate that a significant number of pigmented hairs developed in Wv Wv mice crossed to one of the transgenic mouse lines. The pigmented hair of Wv Wv mice carrying the ret oncogene did not lose color during aging and reappeared after shaving, indicating that the melanocytes in the hair follicle function. The melanocytic tumors also developed in these mice, although the incidence was lower than that in the wild transgenic mice. Furthermore, the neural tube culture of mouse embryos indicated that neural crest cells of the transgenic mice gave rise to a cell population that autonomously produced melanin even in the absence of melanocyte stimulating hormone. These results strongly suggested that the introduced ret oncogene could compensate for the defect of c-kit in Wv mice during both embryogenesis and postnatal life and induce a high level of melanin synthesis in the process of melanocyte development.
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