Quercetin Enhances Melanogenesis By Increasing the Activity and Synthesis of Tyrosinase in Human Melanoma Cells and in Normal Human Melanocytes


* Address reprint requests to Susumu Takekoshi, Ph. D. Department of Pathology, Tokai University School of Medicine, Bohseidai, Isehara, Kanagawa 259-1193, Japan. E-mail: takekos@is.icc.u-tokai.ac.jp


Quercetin (3,3′,4′,5,7-pentahydroxyflavone) is a diphenyl propanoid widely distributed in edible plants. In this study, we examined the effect of quercetin on melanogenesis in human HMVII melanoma cells and in normal human epidermal melanocytes (NHEM) in the absence of ultraviolet radiation. Upon the addition of quercetin to the culture medium, the melanin content in melanoma cells (HMVII) increased remarkably in time- and dose-dependent manners. In addition, quercetin induced melanogenesis in cultured NHEM. As compared with controls, melanin content was increased about sevenfold by treatment with 20 μM (HMVII) or 1 μM (NHEM) quercetin for 7 d. Tyrosinase activity was also increased, to 61.8-fold higher than the control. The expression of tyrosinase protein was slightly increased by the addition of quercetin. However, quercetin did not affect the expression of tyrosinase mRNA. Tyrosinase activation by quercetin was blocked by actinomycin-D or by cycloheximide demonstrating that its actions in stimulating melanogenesis may involve both transcriptional and translational events. Tyrosinase activity was increased dramatically whereas the level of melanogenic inhibitor was remarkably decreased following quercetin treatment. Taken together, these results demonstrate that in human melanoma cells and in NHEM, quercetin stimulates melanogenesis by increasing tyrosinase activity and decreasing other factors such as melanogenic inhibitors.