Influence of astaxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein on DNA damage and repair in UVA-irradiated cells

J Photochem Photobiol B. 2006 Dec 1;85(3):205-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2006.07.009. Epub 2006 Sep 8.


In order to gain more knowledge about the antioxidant role of the predominant carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) of the human retina, this study investigated their antioxidant activity and capacity. Astaxanthin was also studied, because its structure is very close to that of lutein and zeaxanthin. The antioxidant activity of these molecules was evaluated using chemiluminescence techniques, with lucigenin and luminol as chemiluminogenic probes for the superoxide radical and hydrogen peroxide, respectively. It was found that all three carotenoids have similar superoxide-scavenging activity. The effect on the reduction of H(2)O(2)-luminol chemiluminescence was present in the following order, zeaxanthin>astaxanthinlutein. Possible antioxidant capacity of these three compounds was sought using a biological system consisting of SK.N.SH human neuroblastoma and rat trachea epithelial cells subjected to oxidative stress from exposure to UVA radiation. In particular, we determined whether these compounds were capable of minimizing DNA damage and influencing the kinetics of DNA repair. DNA damage was assessed using the Comet assay, a rapid and sensitive single-cell gel electrophoresis technique used to detect primary DNA damage in individual cells. Neuroblastoma cells appeared more resistant to oxidative irradiation insult. The presence of carotenoids reduced DNA damage when rat epithelial cells were exposed to UVA radiation for 2min. A different result was obtained in experiments performed on neuroblastoma cells; in this case, the presence of carotenoid during UVA exposition increased the damage. The addition of carotenoids to epithelial cells after 2min of UVA exposition did not seem to improve the kinetics of DNA repair; on the contrary, zeaxanthin (after 60' incubation) and lutein (after 180' incubation) showed a genotoxic effect. The addition of carotenoids to neuroblastoma cells after 30' UVA exposition positively influences the kinetics of DNA repair in the first 15min of incubation. At longer exposition times, while the behaviour measured was not constant, a genotoxic effect was not observed. The data from this study provide additional information on the antioxidant and pro-oxidant activities of the predominant macular pigment carotenoids of the human retina.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lutein / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / adverse effects
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology*
  • Zeaxanthins


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • astaxanthine
  • Lutein