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J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Feb 26;51(5):1201-7.

Glabrene and isoliquiritigenin as tyrosinase inhibitors from licorice roots.

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Laboratory of Natural Compounds for Medicinal Use, Migal, Galilee Technological Center, P.O. Box 831, Kiryat Shmona 11016, Israel.


Tyrosinase is known to be a key enzyme in melanin biosynthesis, involved in determining the color of mammalian skin and hair. Various dermatological disorders, such as melasama, age spots, and sites of actinic damage, arise from the accumulation of an excessive level of epidermal pigmentation. The inadequacy of current therapies to treat these conditions as well as high cytotoxicity and mutagenicity, poor skin penetration, and low stability of formulations led us to seek new whitening agents to meet the medical requirements for depigmenting agents. The inhibitory effect of licorice extract on tyrosinase activity was higher than that expected from the level of glabridin in the extract. This led us to test for other components that may contribute to this strong inhibitory activity. Results indicated that glabrene and isoliquiritigenin (2',4',4-trihydroxychalcone) in the licorice extract can inhibit both mono- and diphenolase tyrosinase activities. The IC(50) values for glabrene and isoliquiritigenin were 3.5 and 8.1 microM, respectively, when tyrosine was used as substrate. The effects of glabrene and isoliquiritigenin on tyrosinase activity were dose-dependent and correlated to their ability to inhibit melanin formation in melanocytes. This is the first study indicating that glabrene and isoliquiritigenin exert varying degrees of inhibition on tyrosinase-dependent melanin biosynthesis, suggesting that isoflavenes and chalcones may serve as candidates for skin-lightening agents.

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