Rhododenol activates melanocytes and induces morphological alteration at sub-cytotoxic levels

Minjeong Kim, Chang Seok Lee, Kyung Min Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Rhododenol (RD), a whitening cosmetic ingredient, was withdrawn from the market due to RD-induced leukoderma (RIL). While many attempts have been made to clarify the mechanism underlying RIL, RIL has not been fully understood yet. Indeed, affected subjects showed uneven skin pigmentation, but the features are different from vitiligo, a skin hypopigmentary disorder, alluding to events more complex than simple melanocyte cytotoxicity. Here, we discovered that rhododenol treatment reduced the number of melanocytes in a pigmented 3D human skin model, Melanoderm™, confirming the melanocyte toxicity of RD. Of note, melanocytes that survived in the RD treated tissues exhibited altered morphology, such as extended dendrites and increased cell sizes. Consistently with this, sub-cytotoxic level of RD increased cell size and elongated dendrites in B16 melanoma cells. Morphological changes of B16 cells were further confirmed in the immunocytochemistry of treated cells for actin and tubulin. Even more provoking, RD up-regulated the expression of tyrosinase and TRP1 in the survived B16 cells. Evaluation of mRNA expression of cytoskeletal proteins suggests that RD altered the cytoskeletal dynamic favoring cell size expansion and melanosome maturation. Collectively, these results suggest that RD not only induces cytotoxicity in melanocytes but also can lead to a profound perturbation of melanocyte integrity even at sub-cytotoxic levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5665
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cytoskeleton
  • Leukoderma
  • Melanocytes
  • Melanoderm™
  • Morphology
  • Rhododenol


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