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Toxicol In Vitro. 2013 Feb;27(1):339-48. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2012.08.020. Epub 2012 Aug 24.

Fragrance chemicals lyral and lilial decrease viability of HaCat cells' by increasing free radical production and lowering intracellular ATP level: protection by antioxidants.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.


We investigate in this study the biochemical effects on cells in culture of two commonly used fragrance chemicals: lyral and lilial. Whereas both chemicals exerted a significant effect on primary keratinocyte(s), HaCat cells, no effect was obtained with any of HepG2, Hek293, Caco2, NIH3T3, and MCF7 cells. Lyral and lilial: (a) decreased the viability of HaCat cells with a 50% cell death at 100 and 60 nM respectively; (b) decreased significantly in a dose dependant manner the intracellular ATP level following 12-h of treatment; (c) inhibited complexes I and II of electron transport chain in liver sub-mitochondrial particles; and (d) increased reactive oxygen species generation that was reversed by N-acetyl cysteine and trolox and the natural antioxidant lipoic acid, without influencing the level of free and/or oxidized glutathione. Lipoic acid protected HaCat cells against the decrease in viability induced by either compound. Dehydrogenation of lyral and lilial produce α,β-unsaturated aldehydes, that reacts with lipoic acid requiring proteins resulting in their inhibition. We propose lyral and lilial as toxic to mitochondria that have a direct effect on electron transport chain, increase ROS production, derange mitochondrial membrane potential, and decrease cellular ATP level, leading thus to cell death.

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