Anti-pigmentary activity of fucoxanthin and its influence on skin mRNA expression of melanogenic molecules

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2010 Sep;62(9):1137-45. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2010.01139.x.


Objectives: Carotenoids and retinoic acid derivatives are topically applied for sun-protective and whitening purposes. Fucoxanthin is a carotenoid derived from edible sea algae, but its effect on melanogenesis has not been established. Therefore, we examined the effect of fucoxanthin on melanogenesis.

Methods: Inhibitory effects on tyrosinase activity, melanin formation in B16 melanoma and skin pigmentation in UVB-irradiated guinea-pigs were evaluated. To elucidate the action of fucoxanthin on melanogenesis, its effect on skin melanogenic mRNA expression was evaluated in UVB-irradiated mice. Fucoxanthin was given topically or orally to mice once a day and UVB irradiation was applied for 14 days. The effect of fucoxanthin on skin melanogenic mRNA expression was evaluated by real time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.

Key findings: Fucoxanthin inhibited tyrosinase activity, melanogenesis in melanoma and UVB-induced skin pigmentation. Topical application of fucoxanthin (1%) significantly suppressed mRNA expression of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, endothelin receptor A, p75 neurotrophin receptor (NTR), prostaglandin E receptor 1 (EP1), melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) and tyrosinase-related protein 1. The suppression of p75NTR, EP1 and MC1R expressions was observed at 0.01% application. Also, oral application of fucoxanthin (10 mg/kg) significantly suppressed expression of COX-2, p75NTR, EP1 and MC1R.

Conclusions: These results suggest that fucoxanthin exhibits anti-pigmentary activity by topical or oral application in UVB-induced melanogenesis. This effect of fucoxanthin may be due to suppression of prostaglandin (PG) E(2) synthesis and melanogenic stimulant receptors (neurotrophin, PGE(2) and melanocyte stimulating hormone expression).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / genetics
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Male
  • Melanins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Melanins / genetics
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Phaeophyta / chemistry*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Receptors, Endothelin / genetics
  • Receptors, Endothelin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Prostaglandin E, EP1 Subtype / genetics
  • Receptors, Prostaglandin E, EP1 Subtype / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects*
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology*
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Melanins
  • Plant Extracts
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Endothelin
  • Receptors, Prostaglandin E, EP1 Subtype
  • Xanthophylls
  • fucoxanthin
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase
  • Cyclooxygenase 2