Effective inhibition of skin cancer, tyrosinase, and antioxidative properties by astaxanthin and astaxanthin esters from the green alga Haematococcus pluvialis

J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Apr 24;61(16):3842-51. doi: 10.1021/jf304609j. Epub 2013 Apr 16.


Astaxanthin mono- (AXME) and diesters (AXDE) were characterized and examined for anticancer potency with total carotenoids (TC) and astaxanthin (AX) against UV-7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced skin cancer model in rat. At 200 μg/kg bw, AXDE and AXME reduced UV-DMBA-induced tumor incidences up to 96 and 88%, respectively, when compared to AX (66%) and TC (85%). UV-DMBA has been known to generate high levels of free radicals and tyrosinase enzyme, leading to characteristic symptoms of skin pigmentation and tumor initiation. Intriguingly, ~7-fold increase in tyrosinase and 10-fold decrease in antioxidant levels were normalized by AXDE and AXME as opposed to only ~1.4-2.2-fold by AX and TC, respectively. This result together with the appearance of 72 and 58 ng/mL of retinol in the serum of respective AXE-treated (AXDE + AXME) and AX-treated animals suggested that better anticancer potency of AXEs could be due to increased bioavailability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Biological Availability
  • Carcinogens
  • Chlorophyta / chemistry*
  • Esters / pharmacology*
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Xanthophylls / blood
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacokinetics
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology


  • Antioxidants
  • Carcinogens
  • Esters
  • Xanthophylls
  • Vitamin A
  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene
  • astaxanthine
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase