A tomato stem cell extract, containing antioxidant compounds and metal chelating factors, protects skin cells from heavy metal-induced damages

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Dec;33(6):543-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2011.00668.x. Epub 2011 May 24.


Heavy metals can cause several genotoxic effects on cells, including oxidative stress, DNA sequence breakage and protein modification. Among the body organs, skin is certainly the most exposed to heavy metal stress and thus the most damaged by the toxic effects that these chemicals cause. Moreover, heavy metals, in particular nickel, can induce the over-expression of collagenases (enzymes responsible for collagen degradation), leading to weakening of the skin extracellular matrix. Plants have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to protect their cells from heavy metal toxicity, including the synthesis of metal chelating proteins and peptides, such as metallothioneins and phytochelatins (PC), which capture the metals and prevent the damages on the cellular structures. To protect human skin cells from heavy metal toxicity, we developed a new cosmetic active ingredient from Lycopersicon esculentum (tomato) cultured stem cells. This product, besides its high content of antioxidant compounds, contained PC, effective in the protection of skin cells towards heavy metal toxicity. We have demonstrated that this new product preserves nuclear DNA integrity from heavy metal damages, by inducing genes responsible for DNA repair and protection, and neutralizes the effect of heavy metals on collagen degradation, by inhibiting collagenase expression and inducing the synthesis of new collagen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / isolation & purification
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Cosmetics / isolation & purification
  • Cosmetics / pharmacology*
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Phytochelatins / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology
  • Solanum lycopersicum / chemistry*
  • Solanum lycopersicum / cytology
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Antioxidants
  • Cosmetics
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Plant Extracts
  • RNA
  • Collagen
  • Phytochelatins