Family Celastraceae R Brown in Flinders 1814 nom conserv the Bittersweet Family

Physical description: The family Celastraceae consists of about 50 genera and 800 species of trees, shrubs and climbers, which are principally tropical, and often containing phenethylamines, pyridine, and purine alkaloids, triterpenes, sesquiterpenes, lignans, and cardenolides (Euonymus).The leaves of

Celastraceae are simple, often glossy and serrate, alternate or opposite, and with or without stipules. The inflorescences are terminal or axillary cymes. The flowers are hermaphrodite, small, actinomorphic, greenish or white, hypogy-nous and succulent. The perianth comprises of 5 sepals and 5 petals which are small, imbricate or rarely valvate. The andrecium consists of 5 stamens which are alternate with the petals, and inserted in or below the margin of a conspicuous nectary disc. The anthers are tetrasporangiate and dithecal. The gynecium consists of 2-5 carpels forming a superior, 2-5-locular ovary. The styles are terminal, short and capitate, and develop a 2-5-lobed stigma. The fruits are capsules, samaras, berries or drupes.

Maytansine (R= COCH(CH3)N(CH3)COCH3)

Pharmaceutical interest: The leaves of Catha edulis Forsk. or khat, are used in a number of African and Arab countries to stimulate the intellect and to assuage hunger. The active principle of khat is (-) - cathinone, an epinephrine-like phenethylamine alkaloid derived from phenylalanine and tyrosine (Fig. 184). Another classical example of Celastraceae is the ornamental Euonymus europaeus L. (spindle tree), the fruits of which are poisonous. Euonymus (British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1954) consists of the dried root-bark of Euonymus atropurpureus and has been used as a tinctue (0.6 mL-2.6 mL), a mild purgative and choleretic. To date, pharmacological studies on

HO OH Noradrenaline

Fig. 184. Examples of neuroactive natural products characterized from the family Celastraceae. Similitude of chemical structure of (-) - cathinone, noradrenaline and amphetamine.

HO OH Noradrenaline

Amphetamine

Amphetamine

Fig. 184. Examples of neuroactive natural products characterized from the family Celastraceae. Similitude of chemical structure of (-) - cathinone, noradrenaline and amphetamine.

Celastraceae have provided very interesting results and the discovery of natural products of therapeutic interest is very probable in this family. A number of the plants classified within the genus Maytenus and Puterlickia contain macro-cyclic alkaloids of possible bacterial origin, such as maytensine, which are able to inhibit experimentally the proliferation of tumors at very low dosage (^g/Kg of animal body weight). Triptolide and tripdiolide, diterpenes characterized from Tripterygium wilfordii display potent antileukemic properties. About 30 plant species of Celastraceae are medicinal in the Asia-Pacific.

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