Cosmetic industries have an interest in exploring and developing materials that have the potential to regulate melanin synthesis in human skin. Although melanin protects the skin from ultraviolet irradiation, excess melanin can be undesirable, particularly on the face where spots or freckles are associated with an appearance of aging. In this study, we found that ent-11α-hydroxy-15-oxo-kaur-16-en-19-oic acid (11α-OH KA) in Pteris dispar Kunze strongly inhibited melanin synthesis by suppressing tyrosinase gene expression. The melanogenic transcription factor microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) is required for this suppression. However, 11α-OH KA did not modulate the expression level or activity of MITF. Structure-activity relationship analyses suggested that the 11α-OH, 15-oxo, and 16-en moieties of 11α-OH KA are essential for the suppression of melanin synthesis. On the other hand, the 19-COOH moiety is important for preventing cellular toxicity associated with 11α-OH KA and its related compounds. These results suggest that 11α-OH KA is an attractive target for potential use in the production of cosmetic items.
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