Preventive effects of anthraquinone food pigments on the DNA damage induced by carcinogens in Drosophila

Eizo Takahashi, Timothy H. Marczylo, Toshiro Watanabe, Shiro Nagai, Hikoya Hayatsu, Tomoe Negishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


We have previously demonstrated the inhibitory effect of chlorophyllin, a green food additive, on the genotoxicities of various carcinogens in Drosophila. Recently, we reported that purpurin, a component of a red food additive produced from madder root (Rubia tinctorium), inhibits the bacterial mutagenicity of heterocyclic amines. In the present study, we examined antigenotoxic activities of various pigments that are either constituents of food or food additives, using Drosophila in vivo DNA repair assay. Third instar larvae of Drosophila were fed a mutagen with or without pigment. The resulting adult flies were monitored for their male (repair deficient)/female (repair proficient) ratios, which reflect the DNA damage. We tested a total of 20 pigments, which are mainly of plant origins, including flavonoids, carotenoids, anthocyanins, anthraquinones and β-diketone (curcumin)-derivatives, against the genotoxicities of eight carcinogens; IQ, MeIQx, AFB1, NDMA, 2-AAF, DMBA, 4NQO, and MNU. Four anthraquinone pigments (alizarin, purpurin, lac color, and cochineal extract) showed significant antigenotoxic activities. Alizarin and purpurin suppressed the DNA damage induced by IQ, MeIQx, AFB1, NDMA, 2-AAF, DMBA, and MNU. Lac color and cochineal extract showed inhibition against IQ, MeIQx, AFB1, 2-AAF and DMBA. In these inhibitions, suppression of metabolic enzymes may be involved. Since purpurin and alizarin suppressed the activity of MNU, a direct alkylating agent, there may also be a mechanism distinct from enzyme inhibitions in these anthraquinone-mediated suppressions of DNA damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2001


  • Alizarin
  • Anthraquinone
  • Antigenotoxicity
  • Drosophila
  • Food pigment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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