Current evidence suggests that melanogenesis is controlled by epidermal paracrine modulators. We have analyzed the effects of transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) on the basal melanogenic activities of B16/F10 mouse melanoma cells. TGF-beta1 treatment (48 h) elicited a concentration-dependent decrease in basal tyrosine hydroxylase and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (Dopa) oxidase activities, to less than 30% of the control values but had no effect on dopachrome tautomerase activity (TRP-2). The inhibition affected to similar extents the Dopa oxidase activity associated to tyrosinase-related protein-1 (TRP-1) and tyrosinase. This inhibition was noticeable between 1 and 3 h after the addition of the cytokine, and maximal after 6 h of treatment. The decrease in the enzymatic activity was paralleled by a decrease in the abundance of the TRP-1 and tyrosinase proteins. TGF-beta1 mediated this effect by increasing the rate of degradation of tyrosinase and TRP-1. Conversely, after 48 h of treatment, the expression of the tyrosinase gene decreased only slightly, while TRP-1 and TRP-2 gene expression was not affected. An increased rate of proteolytic degradation of TRP-1 and tyrosinase seems the main mechanism accounting for the inhibitory effect of TGF-beta1 on the melanogenic activity of B16/F10 cells.