ISSN 1214-0287 (on-line)
ISSN 1214-021X (printed)

Volume 1 (2003), No 1, p 7-12

Biologically active pentacyclic triterpenes and their current medicine signification

Jiri Patocka

Address: Jiri Patocka, Katedra toxikologie, Vojenska lekarska akademie, Trebesska 1575, 500 01 Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic and Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic

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Pentacyclic triterpenes are produced by arrangement of squalene epoxide. These compounds are extremely common and are found in most plants. There are at least 4000 known triterpenes. Many triterpenes occur freely but others occur as glycosides (saponins) or in special combined forms. Pentacyclic triterpenes have a wide spectrum of biological activities and some of them may be useful in medicine. The therapeutic potential of three pentacyclic triterpenes - lupeol, betuline and betulinic acid - is discussed in this paper. Betulinic acid especially is a very promising compound. This terpene seems to act by inducing apoptosis in cancer cells. Due to its apparent specificity for melanoma cells, betulinic acid seems to be a more promising anti-cancer substance than drugs like taxol.

pentacyclic triterpene; lupeol; betuline; betulinic acid; biological activity

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