Potent low toxicity inhibition of human melanogenesis by novel indole-containing octapeptides

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Oct;1820(10):1481-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2012.05.003. Epub 2012 May 17.


Background: Abnormal production and accumulation of melanin are characteristics of a number of skin disorders, including postinflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma. Our objective was to develop and validate novel oligopeptides with potent inhibitory activity against mushroom and human tyrosinase with minimal toxicity toward melanocytes, keratinocytes, and fibroblasts.

Methods: A library of short sequence oligopeptides was docked against the crystal structure of mushroom tyrosinase to screen for favorable binding free energies and direct interaction with the catalytic pocket. The inhibitory activity of the octapeptides and hydroquinone (HQ) was assessed using mushroom and human tyrosinase and melanin content via human primary melanocytes. Effects on cell viability and proliferation were determined using the MTT assay and cytotoxicity via trypan blue exclusion.

Results: Octapeptides P16-18 outperformed HQ, the benchmark of hypopigmenting agents, in all tested categories. Prolonged incubation of human keratinocytes, fibroblasts, or melanocytes with 30-3000μM HQ led to 8- to 65-fold greater cell death than with octapeptides. After 6d of incubation with 30μM HQ, we observed 70±3% and 60±2% cell death in melanocytes and fibroblasts, respectively, versus minimal toxicity up to an octapeptide concentration of 3mM.

Conclusion: Octapeptides P16-18 are potent competitive tyrosinase inhibitors with minimal toxicity toward the major cell types of human skin.

General significance: The findings in our study suggest that all three novel octapeptides may serve as safe and efficacious replacements of HQ for the treatment of pigmentary disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agaricales / enzymology
  • Agaricales / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Humans
  • Hyperpigmentation / drug therapy
  • Hyperpigmentation / pathology
  • Hyperpigmentation / prevention & control*
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Indoles / therapeutic use
  • Infant
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Melanins / toxicity*
  • Melanocytes / drug effects*
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Melanocytes / pathology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / chemistry
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology*
  • Oligopeptides / therapeutic use
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects


  • Indoles
  • Melanins
  • Oligopeptides
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase