Journal of photochemistry and photobiology. B, Biology vol:45 issue:2-3 pages:87-94
Pseudohypericin and hypericin, the major photosensitizing constituents of Hypericum perforatum, are believed to cause hypericism. Since hypericin has been proposed as a photosensitizer for photodynamic cancer therapy, the photocytotoxicity of its congener pseudohypericin has been investigated. The presence of foetal calf serum (FCS) or albumin extensively inhibits the photocytotoxic effect of pseudohypericin against A431 tumour cells, and is associated with a large decrease in cellular uptake of the compound. These results suggest that pseudohypericin, in contrast to hypericin, interacts strongly with constituents of FCS, lowering its interaction with cells. Since pseudohypericin is two to three times more abundant in Hypericum than hypericin and the bioavailabilities of pseudohypericin and hypericin after oral administration are similar, these results suggest that hypericin, and not pseudohypericin, is likely to be the constituent responsible for hypericism. Moreover, the dramatic decrease of photosensitizing activity of pseudohypericin in the presence of serum may restrict its applicability in clinical situations.