Anticancer evaluation of structurally diverse Amaryllidaceae alkaloids and their synthetic derivatives

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Plants of the Amaryllidaceae family have been under intense scrutiny for the presence of the specific metabolites responsible for the medicinal properties associated with them. The study began in 1877 with the isolation of alkaloid lycorine from Narcissus pseudonarcissus and since then more than 100 alkaloids, exhibiting diverse biological activities, have been isolated from the Amaryllidaceae plants. Based on the present scientific evidence, it is likely that isocarbostyril constituents of the Amaryllidaceae, such as narciclasine, pancratistatin and their congeners, are the most important metabolites responsible for the therapeutic benefits of these plant species in the folk medical treatment of cancer. Notably, Narcissus poeticus L., used by the ancient Greek physicians, is now known to contain about 0.12 g of narciclasine per kg of fresh bulbs. The focus of the present research work is the chemistry and biology of these compounds as specifically relevant to their potential use in medicine. In particular, the anticancer evaluation of lycorine, narciclasine as well as of other Amaryllidaceae alkaloids and their synthetic derivatives are presented in this paper. The structure-activity relationships among some groups of Amaryllidaceae alkaloids will be discussed.

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