Background: Crocus sativus (Iridaceae) has been traditionally used in the Iranian folk medicine and
as a culinary additive. Major components of the plant that are responsible for biological properties are saffranal,
crocin, picrocrocin and crocetin. Although the level of crocetin is not high, some of the important activities of
saffron such as antioxidant activity have been attributed to crocetin.
Objective: In the present study, we investigated the effects of crocetin on melanogenesis in B16 melanoma cells.
Methods: The effect of crocetin on intracellular and mushroom tyrosinase activity and the content of melanin
was evaluated spectrophotometrically. Tyrosinase and Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor (MITF)
protein levels were compared between Crocetin-treated and control cells after western blot analysis. The antioxidative
activity of crocetin was also investigated.
Results: Crocetin could inhibit mushroom tyrosinase activity and lower the amount of melanin in B16
melanoma cells. Protein levels of tyrosinase and MITF were also decreased by crocetin. Crocetin also showed
antioxidant activity and depleted cellular Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) content but had no cytotoxicity in
Conclusion: Taken together, decreased tyrosinase activity, melanin content, tyrosinase and MITF proteins levels,
and ROS production showed the inhibition of melanogenesis in B16F10 cells by crocetin. Hence, crocetin
could be suggested as a potential dermatological whitening agent in skin care products.