Natural compounds which can behave as antioxidants and protect against UV-radiation may well have medical and cosmetic value. Usnic acid, which can be obtained from lichens offer such a potential. The latter is one of the best known and reviewed compounds present in lichens and exhibits many properties of value such as antibiotic, antitumor and UV-filter-effects. We report studies of the potential antioxidant and prooxidant activity of usnic acid extracted from Xanthoparmelia farinosa (Vainio) using a human lymphocyte cell line (Jurkat-cells) under UV-B-irradiation. Cell survival and cell metabolism were determined using different conditions such as usnic acid concentration and UVB dose. Compared to the controls the cells incubated with usnic acid in concentrations of 1 x 10(-8) and 1 x 10(-6) M showed a higher cell survival and a normal metabolism under low doses of UVB-light up to 0.1 J/cm(2). When both higher UVB doses (up to 14 J/cm(2)) and higher concentrations of usnic acid (1 x 10(-4) M) where used, the opposite effect was observed. It is concluded that these effects are due to bifunctional (a switch of) anti-oxidative-pro-oxidative behaviour of usnic acid under UV-B-irradiation.
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