J Syst Evol ›› 1991, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (2): 142-155.
• Research Articles •
Zhu Min, Xiao Pei-Gen
Based on the analysis of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids of 323 samples in 11 families, 50 genera and 181 species of the Chinese flora discussed in this paper are the biogenesis,
evolution, distribution pattern and botanical sources as well as the pharmacological action of
this specific category of alkaloids.
Benzylisoquinoline alkaloids are found mainly in Magnoliidae, in which aporphines,
bisbenzylisoquinolines and protoberberines are the three major types of the alkaloids. More
specifically, aporphines appeare more concentrated in primitive woody plants such as the
Annonaceae, while bisbenzylisoquinolines are especially common in the Menispermaceae,
Thalictrum (the Ranunculaceae) and Berberis (the Berberidaceae). As to protoberberines, the
quaternary ones occur mainly in the families Ranunculaceae and Berberidaceae, whereas the
tertiary ones mainly in the relatively advanced families Menispermaceae and Papaveraceae
As a whole, a general rule can be drawn that the simpler the chemical structure of the
benzylisoquinolines is, the more widely they are distributed in primitive groups; more specific
ones only have a limited distribution in more advanced groups or even within one family or
one to several genera. This general pattern of distribution of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids in
plants may be of value as a taxonomic criterion for plant systematics.
Furthermore, this group of alkaloids covers the gamut of pharmacologic responses, such
as the antibacterial effect and the effect to cardiovascular and nervous systems, and
consequently the correlation between benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and their pharmacologicactivities within Magnoliidae may worthily be applied for the finding of new drugs.
Zhu Min, Xiao Pei-Gen. Distribution of Benzylisoquinolines in Magnoliidae and Other Taxa[J]. J Syst Evol, 1991, 29(2): 142-155.
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