It is difficult to distinguish between tumor cells and surrounding cells without staining as is done in histology. We developed tyrosinase-catalyzed melanin as a reporter gene for photoacoustic tomography. Tyrosinase is the primary enzyme responsible for the production of melanin and alone is sufficient to produce melanin in non-melanogenic cells. Two cell lines were created: a stably transfected HeLa line and a transiently transfected 293 line. A phantom experiment was performed with the 293 transfected cells 48 hours post transfection and the results compared with oxygenated whole blood, B16 melanoma and 293 control cells. An in vivo experiment was performed using the transfected HeLa cells xenografted into a nude mouse ear, and then imaged. The results show strong contrast for tyrosinase-catalyzed melanin in both the 293 cells in the tube phantom as well as the in vivo result showing melanin in a nude mouse ear. Transfection increased expression in 293 cells 159 fold and image contrast compared to blood by as much as 50 fold. Due to the strong signal obtained at longer wavelengths and the decrease of blood signal at the same wavelengths, tyrosinase catalyzed melanin is a good candidate as a molecular imaging contrast agent for photoacoustic tomography.