The beta-carboline alkaloids found in medical plants and in a variety of foods, beverages and cigarette smoke have a range of action in various biological systems. In vitro studies have demonstrated that these alkaloids can act as scavengers of reactive oxygen species. In this paper, we report the in vivo antioxidative properties of the aromatic (harmane, harmine, harmol) and dihydro-beta-carbolines (harmaline and harmalol) studied by using Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains proficient and deficient in antioxidant defenses. Their antimutagenic activity was also assayed in S. cerevisiae and the antigenotoxicity was tested by the comet assay in V79 cell line, when both eukaryotic systems were exposed to H(2)O(2). We show that the alkaloids have a significant protective effect against H(2)O(2) and paraquat oxidative agents in yeast cells, and that their ability to scavenge hydroxyl radicals contributes to their antimutagenic and antigenotoxic effects.
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