J Syst Evol ›› 1991, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (2): 142-155.

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Distribution of Benzylisoquinolines in Magnoliidae and Other Taxa

Zhu Min, Xiao Pei-Gen   

  • Published:1991-03-10

Abstract: 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 within Magnoliidae. 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.

Key words: Benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, Magnoliidae, Chemotaxonomy