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Phytochemistry. 2004 May;65(10):1389-95.

Chalcones as potent tyrosinase inhibitors: the effect of hydroxyl positions and numbers.

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


The inhibition of tyrosinase is one of the major strategies to treat hyperpigmentation. Various limitations are associated with many of these inhibitors, such as high cytotoxicity, poor skin penetration and low stability in formulations. In continuation of our previous study [J. Agric. Food Chem. 51 (2003) 1201], showing that isoliquiritigenin chalcone (ILC) is a potent tyrosinase inhibitor, the present study aims to characterize the chalcone family as new tyrosinase inhibitors, and demonstrate their potential whitening potency. Nine mono-, di-, tri- and tetrahydroxychalcones were tested as inhibitors of tyrosinase mono- and diphenolase activities, showing that the most important factor in their efficacy is the location of the hydroxyl groups on both aromatic rings, with a significant preference to a 4-substituted B ring, rather than a substituted A ring. Neither the number of hydroxyls nor the presence of a catechol moiety on ring B correlated with increasing tyrosinase inhibition potency. 4-Hydroxychalcone (4-HC), ILC and Butein inhibited tyrosinase and shortened the lag period of enzyme monophenolase activity from about 490 min (control) to 30 min (ILC). As pigmentation also results from auto-oxidation, the antioxidant activity of 4-HC, ILC and Butein, were tested. Results showed that chalcones are also potent antioxidants, with Butein the most potent. We may conclude that chalcones are potentially potent new depigmentation agents, with their double effect of reduction and antioxidant activity. A deeper understanding of the relation between their structures to their potency will contribute to designing the optimal agents.

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