Novel Chemically Modified Curcumin (CMC) Derivatives Inhibit Tyrosinase Activity and Melanin Synthesis in B16F10 Mouse Melanoma Cells

Biomolecules. 2021 Apr 30;11(5):674. doi: 10.3390/biom11050674.


Skin hyperpigmentation disorders arise due to excessive production of the macromolecular pigment melanin catalyzed by the enzyme tyrosinase. Recently, the therapeutic use of curcumin for inhibiting tyrosinase activity and production of melanin have been recognized, but poor stability and solubility have limited its use, which has inspired synthesis of curcumin analogs. Here, we investigated four novel chemically modified curcumin (CMC) derivatives (CMC2.14, CMC2.5, CMC2.23 and CMC2.24) and compared them to the parent compound curcumin (PC) for inhibition of in vitro tyrosinase activity using two substrates for monophenolase and diphenolase activities of the enzyme and for diminution of cellular melanogenesis. Enzyme kinetics were analyzed using Lineweaver-Burk and Dixon plots and nonlinear curve-fitting to determine the mechanism for tyrosinase inhibition. Copper chelating activity, using pyrocatechol violet dye indicator assay, and antioxidant activity, using a DPPH radical scavenging assay, were also conducted. Next, the capacity of these derivatives to inhibit tyrosinase-catalyzed melanogenesis was studied in B16F10 mouse melanoma cells and the mechanisms of inhibition were elucidated. Inhibition mechanisms were studied by measuring intracellular tyrosinase activity, cell-free and intracellular α-glucosidase enzyme activity, and effects on MITF protein level and cAMP maturation factor. Our results showed that CMC2.24 showed the greatest efficacy as a tyrosinase inhibitor of all the CMCs and was better than PC as well as a popular tyrosinase inhibitor-kojic acid. Both CMC2.24 and CMC2.23 inhibited tyrosinase enzyme activity by a mixed mode of inhibition with a predominant competitive mode. In addition, CMC2.24 as well as CMC2.23 showed a comparable robust efficacy in inhibiting melanogenesis in cultured melanocytes. Furthermore, after removal of CMC2.24 or CMC2.23 from the medium, we could demonstrate a partial recovery of the suppressed intracellular tyrosinase activity in the melanocytes. Our results provide a proof-of-principle for the novel use of the CMCs that shows them to be far superior to the parent compound, curcumin, for skin depigmentation.

Keywords: MITF; cAMP; chemically modified curcumin; curcumin; enzyme kinetics; melanogenesis; tyrosinase; α-glucosidase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival
  • Curcumin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Melanocytes / drug effects*
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Melanoma / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor / drug effects
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / drug effects*
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Oxidoreductases / drug effects
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism


  • 1,7-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-4-N-phenylaminocarbonylhepta-1,6-dien-3,5-dione
  • Melanins
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Oxidoreductases
  • monophenolase
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase
  • Curcumin