Lemon balm extract (Melissa officinalis, L.) promotes melanogenesis and prevents UVB-induced oxidative stress and DNA damage in a skin cell model

  • Author Footnotes
    1 These authors have equally contributed to this research and are listed in random order.
    Almudena Pérez-Sánchez
    1 These authors have equally contributed to this research and are listed in random order.
    Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC), Miguel Hernández University (UMH), Avenida de la Universidad s/n, E-03202 Elche, Alicante, Spain
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 These authors have equally contributed to this research and are listed in random order.
    Enrique Barrajón-Catalán
    1 These authors have equally contributed to this research and are listed in random order.
    Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC), Miguel Hernández University (UMH), Avenida de la Universidad s/n, E-03202 Elche, Alicante, Spain

    INVITROTECNIA S.L., Santiago Grisolía 2, 28760 Tres Cantos, Madrid, Spain
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  • María Herranz-López
    Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC), Miguel Hernández University (UMH), Avenida de la Universidad s/n, E-03202 Elche, Alicante, Spain
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  • Author Footnotes
    2 Frutarom Group.
    Julián Castillo
    2 Frutarom Group.
    Nutrafur S.A., Camino Viejo de Pliego, km.2, 30820 Alcantarilla, Murcia, Spain

    Department of Food Technology and Nutrition, Universidad Católica San Antonio, Murcia, Spain
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  • Vicente Micol
    Corresponding author at: Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular, Universidad Miguel Hernández. Avda. de la Universidad S/No. 03202 Elche, Alicante, Spain.
    Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC), Miguel Hernández University (UMH), Avenida de la Universidad s/n, E-03202 Elche, Alicante, Spain

    CIBER (CB12/03/30038, Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y la Nutrición, CIBERobn, Instituto de Salud Carlos III), Spain
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 These authors have equally contributed to this research and are listed in random order.
    2 Frutarom Group.


      • Lemon balm extract contains rosmarinic and salvianolic acids as the main polyphenols.
      • LBE protects skin cells against UVB-induced cytotoxicity and ROS generation.
      • LBE decreases UVB-induced DNA damage and the DNA damage response in keratinocytes.
      • Lemon balm extract promotes melanogenesis in melanoma cells.
      • LBE has the potential to protect human skin against UV-induced damage.



      Solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of the main causes of a variety of cutaneous disorders, including photoaging and skin cancer. Its UVB component (280–315 nm) leads to oxidative stress and causes inflammation, DNA damage, p53 induction and lipid and protein oxidation. Recently, an increase in the use of plant polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties has emerged to protect human skin against the deleterious effects of sunlight.


      This study evaluates the protective effects of lemon balm extract (LBE) (Melissa Officinalis, L) and its main phenolic compound rosmarinic acid (RA) against UVB-induced damage in human keratinocytes.


      The LBE composition was determined by HPLC analysis coupled to photodiode array detector and ion trap mass spectrometry with electrospray ionization (HPLC-DAD-ESI-IT-MS/MS). Cell survival, ROS generation and DNA damage were determined upon UVB irradiation in the presence of LBE. The melanogenic capacity of LBE was also determined.


      RA and salvianolic acid derivatives were the major compounds, but caffeic acid and luteolin glucuronide were also found in LBE. LBE and RA significantly increased the survival of human keratinocytes upon UVB radiation, but LBE showed a stronger effect. LBE significantly decreased UVB-induced intracellular ROS production. Moreover, LBE reduced UV-induced DNA damage and the DNA damage response (DDR), which were measured as DNA strand breaks in the comet assay and histone H2AX activation, respectively. Finally, LBE promoted melanogenesis in the cell model.


      These results suggest that LBE may be considered as a candidate for the development of oral/topical photoprotective ingredients against UVB-induced skin damage.


      6-4PPs (pyrimidine (6-4) pyrimidone), CPDs (cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers), DDR (DNA damage response), DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), DSBs (double-strand brakes), H2DCF-DA (2′,7′-dichlorofluorescein diacetate), HNE (4-hydroxy-2-nonenal), IBMX (3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine), LBE (lemon balm extract), MDA (malondialdehyde), ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), PBS (phosphate-buffered saline), RA (rosmarinic acid), ROS (reactive oxygen species), SSBs (single-strand brakes), TEAC (trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity), UV (ultraviolet)


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