Comparative cytotoxicity of phenols in vitro.

S. Passi, M. Picardo, M. Nazzaro-Porro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two melanotic human melanoma cell lines, IRE 1 and IRE 2, and the lymphoma- and leukaemia-derived cell lines Raji and K 562, were exposed to different concentrations (from 5 X 10(-3) M to 10(-5) M) of phenols, both substrates (s) and non-substrates (ns) of tyrosinase, in the presence or absence of the oxygen-radical-scavenger enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase and peroxidase. Monophenols were tyrosine (s), 4-hydroxyanisole (s) and butylated hydroxyanisole (ns); diphenols were L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (s), dopamine (3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine) (s), terbutylcatechol (s), hydroquinone (s) and resorcinol (ns); triphenols were 6-hydroxydopa (3,4,6-trihydroxyphenylalanine) (s) and methyl gallate (s). Triphenols and o- and p-diphenols underwent complete oxidation in culture medium within 24 h of incubation and were significantly more toxic than monophenols and the m-diphenol resorcinol, which, under the same cultural conditions, were much more stable. No significant differences in percentage survival were found among the different cell lines for each drug tested. The major component of toxicity up to 24 h of di- and tri-phenols is due to toxic oxygen species acting outside the cells and not to cellular uptake of these phenols as such. In fact the addition of oxygen-radical-scavenger enzymes significantly (P less than 0.01) decreased the adverse effect of these drugs on all cell lines. The lower toxicity of monophenols and resorcinol as compared with that of di- and tri-phenols is due, in our opinion, to the fact that they are less oxidized under the conditions existing in the culture medium, and therefore do not produce sufficient levels of oxygen radicals. For these compounds, a primary intracellular action has to be taken into account to explain their cytotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-542
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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