Metabolite profiling and isolation of biologically active compounds from Scadoxus puniceus, a highly traded South African medicinal plant

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Scadoxus puniceus (Amaryllidaceae), a medicinal plant of high value in South Africa, is used as a component of a traditional herbal tonic prescribed to treat several ailments. Ultra-high performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry quantified the phenolic compounds in different organs of S. puniceus. Gravity column chromatography was used to separate fractions and active compounds. The structure of these compounds was determined using 1D and 2D nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectroscopic techniques. A microplate technique was used to determine the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity of the pure compounds. Metabolite profiling revealed a greater profusion of hydroxycinnamic acids (69.5%), as opposed to hydroxybenzoic acids (30.5%). Chlorogenic acid was the most abundant (49.6% of hydroxycinnamic acids) compound. In addition to chlorogenic acid, the study is the first to report the presence of sinapic, gallic, and m-hydroxybenzoic acids in the Amaryllidaceae. Chromatographic separation of S. puniceus led to the isolation of haemanthamine (1), haemanthidine (2), and a rare chlorinated amide, metolachlor (3), the natural occurrence of which is described for the first time. Haemanthamine, haemanthidine, and metolachlor displayed strong acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity (IC50; 23.1, 23.7, and 11.5 μM, respectively). These results substantiate the frequent use of S. puniceus as a medicinal plant and hold much promise for further pharmaceutical development.

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