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Glutathione as a depigmenting agent: an overview

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Synopsis Glutathione is an ubiquitous compound found in our bodies. Aside from its many ascribed biologic functions, it has also been implicated in skin lightening. We review and studies that show evidence of its involvement in the melanogenic pathway and shed light on the its anti-melanogenic effect. Proposed mechanisms of action include: (a) direct inactivation of the enzyme tyrosinase by binding with the copper-containing active site of the enzyme; (b) mediating the switch mechanism from eumelanin to phaeomelanin production; (c) quenching of free radicals and peroxides that contribute to tyrosinase activation and melanin formation; and d) modulation of depigmenting abilities of melanocytotoxic agents. These concepts supported by the various experimental evidence presented form basis for future research in the use of glutathione in the treatment of pigmentary disorders.


Le glutathion est un composé ubiquitaire présent dans nos organismes. En plus de ses fonctions biologiques déjà décrites, il a été impliqué dans le blanchissement de la peau. Nous passons en revue les études in vitro et in vivo qui apportent des preuves de son implication dans la voie de la mélanogénèse et des possibles explications de son effet anti mélanogénétique. Les mécanismes proposés de cette action incluent: (a) une inactivation directe de l'enzyme tyrosinase par liaison au Cuivre du site actif de l'enzyme; (b) influencer le mécanisme de bascule entre la production d'eumélanine vers la phaeomélanine; (c) extinction des radicaux libres et des peroxydes qui contribuent à activer la tyrosinase; et (d) modulation des capacités dépigmentantes des agents mélanocytotoxiques. Les concepts appuyés par les diverses démonstrations expérimentales présentées ici forment les bases des recherches futures sur l'utilisation du glutathion dans le traitement des désordres pigmentaires.

Keywords: depigmentation; glutathione; phaeomelanogenesis; skin lightening

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2005.00235.x

Affiliations: School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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