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Melanoma Res. 2001 Oct;11(5):461-7.

Study of the in vitro cytotoxic potential of natural and synthetic coumarin derivatives using human normal and neoplastic skin cell lines.

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Department of Applied Science, School of Science, Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland.


A selection of natural and synthetic coumarin compounds, including the hydroxylated and nitrated derivatives, were assessed for their cytotoxic potential using the microculture 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay for cellular viability. For the first time this study utilized both human skin malignant melanocytes (SK-MEL-31) and normal human skin fibroblastic cells (HS613.SK), allowing identification of those coumarin derivatives that are selectively toxic. Coumarin was found to exhibit comparatively low toxicity in both cell types, while 7-hydroxycoumarin (7-OHC) and coumarin had similar activity in SK-MEL-31 cells. The entire series of hydroxylated coumarins were considerably more toxic in HS613.SK than in SK-MEL-31 cells. Novel synthetic nitrated coumarins, 6-nitro-7-hydroxycoumarin (6-NO2-7-OHC) and 3,6,8-nitro-7-hydroxycoumarin (3,6,8-NO2-7-OHC), were shown to be significantly more toxic to SK-MEL-31 than HS613.SK cells. In the malignant melanocyte skin cell line (SK-MEL-31) the cytotoxic effects of these nitro-derivatives were shown to be dose and time dependent. Therefore, the cytotoxic potential of coumarins appears to be highly dependent on the nature and position of the functional group. In addition, nitration of 7-OHC produced compounds that were cytotoxic to malignant melanocytes, suggesting that these nitro-derivatives may have a chemotherapeutic role in the future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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