Tyrosinase-mediated formation of a reactive quinone from the depigmenting agents, 4-tert-butylphenol and 4-tert-butylcatechol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Exposure of the skin to certain phenols or catechols such as 4-tert-butylphenol (TBP) and 4-tert-butylcatechol (TBC) may cause leukoderma. These substances are used in the polymer industry and numerous cases have been reported. Several theories of the mechanism for chemical leukoderma have been suggested. In the present study, TBP and TBC are shown to be oxidised by tyrosinase. The oxidation of TBC yields a quinone that is further investigated on its reactions with cysteine or glutathione (GSH). The products formed are isolated and identified by mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance as being 4-tert-butyl-6-S-cysteinylcatechol (cys-TBC) and 4-tert-butyl-6-S-glutathionylcatechol (GS-TBC). The reactive quinone is a strongly electrophilic substance that rapidly reacts with GSH. A depletion of the GSH defence system may give conditions where the quinone lives long enough to effect its toxic properties. The influence of the reactive tert-butylquinone on enzymatic activities is demonstrated by the inhibition of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Dermatology and Venereal Diseases


  • Chemical leukoderma, Glutathione, Melanocyte, Pigmentation, Quinone
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-38
JournalPigment Cell Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Department of Dermatology and Venereology (Lund) (013006000), Organic chemistry (S/LTH) (011001240)