The Coffee (syn. Madder) botanical family (Rubiaceae Juss.) (Table 15) consists of more than 400 genera and over 6000 species. It grows in the tropics and the sub-tropics. Plants belonging to this family include trees, bushes and liane. The Coffee plant family contains two major purines of adenine- /guanine-derived alkaloids, the so-called "purine alkaloids". Purine is a nitrogenous base of nucleotide, which consists of just purine and pentose sugar (D-ribose or 2 deoxy-D-ribose). Typical purine alkaloids are caffeine, theophylline and theo-bromine. The same or similar purine alkaloids occur also in other plant families,
Table 15 General botanical characteristics of the Coffee family312,313,316,318
Botanical Forms and Parts
Some typical genera
Some genera in temperate zone Lacking internal phloem Hairs
Opposite or whorled
Corolla with cylindric tube Usually bisexual
Embryo straight to curved such as the Tea plant family (Theaceae), the Guarana plant family (Sapinidaceae) and the Cola plant family (Sterculiaceae). The plants of the Guarana family have one additional alkaloid, guaranine (Table 10). Purine alkaloids have a biological and according to recent (still unpublished) clinical results, also a positive and prophylactic effect in decreasing the risk of Parkinson's disease, for example in the case of caffeine. From Waltheria douradinha St. Hill belonging to the Cola family, walterione A, a tryptophan-derived alkaloid, has been discovered147. This alkaloid has important biological potential. Staerk et al.50 noted five alkaloids isolated from the species Corynanthe pachyceras K. Schum., a member of the Rubiaceae family. Corynantheidine, corynantheine, dihydrocorynantheine, a-yohimbine and corynanthine were isolated from the bark of this species and all these alkaloids demonstrate powerful bio and ecoimpacts (leishmanici-dal, antiplasmodial and cytotoxic activity). Other L-tryptophan-derived alkaloids were found in the stem bark of Cinchona officinalis, belonging to same botanical family (Rubiaceae)55. These are quinine, quinidine, cinchonine and cinchoni-dine. Such alkaloids also show bioimpact. Moreover, the latest research focuses on mitragynine, an alkaloid in Mitragyna speciosa which grows in Thailand. This alkaloid has a powerful, opium-like effect172. Moreover, mitragynine was also isolated from this plant173 and the effect of mitragynine on neurogenic contraction of smooth muscle was studied in guinea-pig vas deferens. The alkaloid inhibited the contraction of the vas deferens produced by electrical transmural stimulation. On the other hand, mitragynine failed to affect the responses to norepinephrine and ATP173. From the leaves of Psychotria forsteriana quadrigemine A, quadrigemine B, psychotridine and isopsychotridine C have been also isolated and their cytotoxic activity on cultured rat hepatoma cells (HTC line) have been reported174. These alkaloids showed a high toxicity on HTC.
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