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Environ Mol Mutagen. 2003;42(3):185-91.

Evaluation of mutagenic activity in an extract of pepper tree stem bark (Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi).

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  • 1Departamento de Farmácia, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Natal-RN, Brazil.


An extract (decoction) from pepper tree stem bark (Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi) is widely used in Brazil as a topical antiinflammatory agent and to cicatrize wounds. The extract contains catechin, tannins, terpenes, flavonoids, and saponins; of these components, both mutagenic potential and antioxidant properties have been ascribed to flavonoids. The mutagenicity of some flavonoids is believed to be associated with the formation of reactive oxygen species and seems to depend on the number and position of hydroxyl groups. In the present study, we evaluated an extract of S. terebinthifolius in a series of cell-free and bacterial assays in order to determine its genotoxic potential. The extract was negative in a cell-free plasmid DNA test, indicating that it did not directly break DNA. Positive results, however, were obtained in the SOS chromotest, in a forward mutagenesis assay employing CC104 and CC104mutMmutY strains of Escherichia coli, and in the Salmonella reversion assay, using strains TA97, TA98, TA100, and TA102. All the bacterial tests were performed without exogenous metabolic activation due to the topical use of this preparation. The results indicate that pepper tree stem bark extract produces DNA damage and mutation in bacteria, and that oxidative damage may be responsible for the genotoxicity.

Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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