Polyphenolic antioxidant (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate from green tea reduces UVB-induced inflammatory responses and infiltration of leukocytes in human skin

Photochem Photobiol. 1999 Feb;69(2):148-53.


Identification of natural products capable of affording protection against UVB radiation-induced inflammatory responses and generation of oxidative stress may have important human health implications. The UVB exposure-induced skin injury and oxidative stress has been associated with a variety of skin disease conditions including photoaging, inflammation and cancer. Tea is a popular beverage consumed worldwide. In several mouse skin models, topical application as well as oral consumption of green tea has been shown to afford protection against chemical and UVB-induced carcinogenesis and inflammatory responses. In the present study, we investigated in human skin, whether topical application of (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the major polyphenolic constituent in green tea, inhibits UVB-induced infiltration of leukocytes (macrophage/neutrophils), a potential source of generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and generation of prostaglandin (PG) metabolites. Human subjects were UVB irradiated on sun-protected skin to four times their minimal erythema dosage (MED) and skin biopsies or keratomes were obtained either 24 h or 48 h later. We found that topical application of EGCG (3 mg/2.5 cm2) before UVB (4 MED) exposure to human skin significantly blocked UVB-induced infiltration of leukocytes and reduced myeloperoxidase activity. These infiltrating leukocytes are considered to be the major source of generation of ROS. In the same set of experiments we found that topical application of EGCG before UVB exposure decreased UVB-induced erythema. In additional experiments, we found that microsomes from EGCG pretreated human skin and exposed to UVB, compared to UVB exposure alone, produced significantly reduced PG metabolites, particularly PGE2. The PG metabolites play a critical role in free radical generation and skin tumor promotion in multistage skin carcinogenesis. Careful microscopic examination of skin sections, stained with hematoxylin and eosin, under higher magnification (x400) also revealed that EGCG pretreated and UVB-exposed human skin contained fewer dead cells in the epidermis with comparison to nonpretreated UVB-exposed skin. Taken together, our data demonstrate that EGCG has the potential to block the UVB-induced infiltration of leukocytes and the subsequent generation of ROS in human skin. This may explain the possible mechanism involved in anti-inflammatory effects of green tea. We suggest that EGCG may be useful as a topical agent for protection against UVB-induced ROS-associated inflammatory dermatoses, photoaging and photocarcinogenesis. Further studies are warranted in this direction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Dermatitis / prevention & control*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / radiation effects
  • Mice
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Tea
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Tea
  • Catechin
  • epigallocatechin gallate