Saponified evening primrose oil reduces melanogenesis in B16 melanoma cells and reduces UV-induced skin pigmentation in humans

Lipids. 2010 May;45(5):401-7. doi: 10.1007/s11745-010-3405-4. Epub 2010 Mar 30.


This study was conducted to determine whether saponified evening primrose oil (sap-EPO) has the potential for use as a whitening agent and to investigate its underlying mechanisms of action. In B16 melanoma cells, sap-EPO dose-dependently inhibited isobutylmethylxanthine-induced melanogenesis with no cytotoxicity. This decrease in melanin production was correlated with reduced enzyme activity and decreased mRNA and protein levels of tyrosinase. The mRNA levels of tyrosinase-related proteins 1 and 2 decreased in response to treatment with sap-EPO, indicating that it regulated tyrosinase at the transcriptional level. Expression of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor was also decreased by sap-EPO as evidenced by decreased mRNA and protein levels. Additionally, topical application of sap-EPO resulted in efficient whitening of UVB-induced hyperpigmentation of human skin. Taken together, these results suggest that sap-EPO has the potential for use as a cosmetic whitening agent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Down-Regulation
  • Humans
  • Melanins / genetics
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Melanoma, Experimental
  • Men
  • Mice
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Oenothera biennis / chemistry*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects*
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Melanins
  • Plant Oils
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase