The evidence for the existence of anticancer agents in the family Annonaceae is strong and it seems likely that further research on this taxa will lead to the discovery of antineoplastic agents. Among the families of flowering plants, Annonaceae are particularly interesting in the field of oncology because this family elaborates a surprisingly broad array of secondary metabolites, which abrogate the survival of mammalian cells, including acetogenins, styryl-lactones, and isoquinoline alkaloids.
Sung et al. made the interesting observation that lirio-denine, an aporphine isolated from Cananga odorata inhibited the enzymatic activity of topoisomerase II both in vivo and in vitro and caused highly catenated simian virus 40 daughter chromosomes in simian virus 40-infected CV-1 cells (1). Aporphine alkaloids from Annonaceae, but also the Magnoliidae in general, are likely to have potential as inhibitors of topoisomerase, and further investigation of flowering plants, and especially the medicinal Annonaceae of the Asia-Pacific region, as a source of cytotoxic aporphoids is encouaged.
Artabotrys suaveolens Bl., or akar cenana (Malay), is a woody climber that grows in the primary rainforest of Burma, Java, Moluccas, and the Philippines. The bark is blackish and smooth, and the twigs are hooked. The leaves are simple, alternate, dark green, glossy, elliptic, and 8.5 X 3.5 cm-5 X 3 cm. The fruits are green, glossy, and ellipsoid (1.4 cm X 5 mm), with ripe carpels, each containing a single seed. Indonesians drink a decoction of the leaves to treat cholera. In the Philippines, decoction of bark and roots is drunk to promote menses and to relieve childbirth exhaustion.
The potential properties of A. suaveolens Bl. has a source of topoisomerase II inhibitor is open for exploration. The plant probably elaborates aporphine alkaloids because aporphines are known to occur in the genus Artabotrys (2,3). Liriodenine and atherospermidine from Artabotrys uncinatus and artabotrine from Artabotrys zeylanicus abrogated the survival of cancer cells cultured in vitro (4).
Fissistigma fulgens (Hk. f. et Th.) Merr. (Melodorum fulgens Hk. f. et Th, Uvaria ful-gens Wall.), or pisang hutan (Malay), is a large climber that grows in the primary rain forest of south peninsular Malaysia. The plant is easily recognized by the shining leaves with minute adpressed, tawny pubescence on the lower surface of the leaves. The stems are terete and pubescent. The leaves are simple, alternate, and exstipulate. The blade is oblong lanceolate, 7.5-15 cm X 3-5 cm, acute, the base is rounded. The blade shows 13-18 pairs of secondary nerves running out to the margin. The petiole is 7-10 mm long. The flowers have a slight sweet odor, and are terminal in a few flowered cymes. The flower pedicels are 5-10 mm long. The sepals are broadly ovate, pubescent outside, and 1-2 mm long. The petals are thick and orange; the outer petals are ovate-oblong and 1.2-1.5 cm long, and the inner petals are 7 mm long. The fruits are ripe carpels, 3-4 cm long, and 2.3 cm in diameter (Fig. 81).
In Malaysia, a paste of leaves is applied to sore legs, and a decoction of the leaves is drunk as a protective remedy given after childbirth. To date, the pharmacological potential of F. fulgens (Hk. f. et Th.) Merr. is unexplored. It would be interesting to learn whether further study on this medicinal plant disclose any aporphines of chemo-therapeutic interest.
Friesodielsia latifolia Hk. f. et Th. (Oxymitra latifolia Hk. f. et Th.) is a climber that grows in the primary rain forest of Southeast Asia. The plant was present in Singapore in the Mac Ritchie Reservoir forest and the Botanic Garden's jungle. It is a climber that can grow to a length of 20 m. The young branches are rusty tomentose. The leaves are simple, alternate and exstipulate, and large. The blade is coriaceous,
dark green on top, glaucous on the bottom, glabrous (except for the midrib), glossy, broadly obovate, and 18 X 7.5 cm. The blade shows 10 pairs of secondary nerves. The petiole is 1 cm long. The flowers are solitary on 1-cm-long pedicel. The sepals are coriaceous, sub-orbicular, rusty-pubescent, and 4 mm long. The petals are creamy white turning brown, 4 cm long, inner to 2.7 cm long. The fruits are ripe carpels of about 1.5 cm in length and 7 mm diameter, oblong-ovoid, apiculate, and slightly pubescent (Fig. 82).
The plant is used by Malays to assuage body pains, and a decoction of roots is drunk as a protective remedy after childbirth. The pharmacological properties of this plant are unknown, but it is very probable that it elaborates aporphines and flavonoids as characterized in Oxymitra velutina (5).
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