Targeting hydroxybenzoic acids to mitochondria as a strategy to delay skin ageing: an in vitro approach

Carlos Fernandes*, Fernando Cagide, Jorge Simões, Carlos Pita, Eurico Pereira, Afonso J. C. Videira, Pedro Soares, José F.S. Duarte, António M.S. Santos, Paulo J. Oliveira, Fernanda Borges, Filomena S.G. Silva

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Targeting antioxidants to mitochondria is considered a promising strategy to prevent cellular senescence and skin ageing. In this study, we investigate whether four hydroxybenzoic acid-based mitochondria-targeted antioxidants (MitoBENs, MB1-4) could be used as potential active ingredients to prevent senescence in skin cells. Firstly, we evaluated the chemical stability, cytotoxicity, genotoxicity and mitochondrial toxicity of all compounds. We followed this by testing the antioxidant protective capacity of the two less toxic compounds on human skin fibroblasts. We then assessed the effects of the best hit on senescence, inflammation and mitochondrial remodeling on a 3D skin cell model, while also testing its mutagenic potential. Cytotoxicity and mitochondrial toxicity rankings were produced: MB3 < MB4 ≃ MB1 < MB2 and MB3 < MB1 < MB4 < MB2, respectively. These results suggest that pyrogallol-based compounds (MB2 and MB4) have lower cytotoxicity. The pyrogallol derivative, MB2, containing a 6-carbon spacer, showed a more potent antioxidant protective activity against hydrogen peroxide cytotoxicity. In a 3D skin cell model, MB2 also decreased transcripts related to senescence. In sum, MB2’s biological safety profile, good chemical stability and lack of mutagenicity, combined with its anti-senescence effect, converts MB2 into a good candidate for further development as an active ingredient for skin anti-ageing products.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6183
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydroxybenzoic acid-based mitochondria-targeted antioxidants
  • Mitochondria
  • Oxidative stress
  • Senescence
  • Skin ageing


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