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Plant triterpenoid saponins: biosynthesis, in vitro production, and pharmacological relevance

  • Tanya Biswas
  • Upendra N. DwivediEmail author
Review Article


The saponins are a diverse class of natural products, with a broad scale distribution across different plant species. Chemically characterized as triterpenoid glycosides, they posses a 30C oxidosqualene precursor-based aglycone moiety (sapogenin), to which glycosyl residues are subsequently attached to yield the corresponding saponin. Based on the chemically distinct aglycone moieties, broadly, they are divided into triterpenoid saponins (dammaranes, ursanes, oleananes, lupanes, hopanes, etc.) and the sterol glycosides. This review aims to present in detail the biosynthesis patterns of the different aglycones from a common precursor and their glycosylation patterns to yield the functionally active glycoside. The review also presents recent advances in the pharmacological activities of these saponins, particularly as potent anti-neoplastic pharmacophores, antioxidants, or anti-viral/antibacterial agents. Since alternate production pedestals for these pharmacologically important triterpenes via cell and tissue cultures are an attractive option for their sustainable production, recent trends in the variety and scale of in vitro production of plant triterpenoids have also been discussed.


Saponin Triterpene MVA pathway In vitro production Pharmacological significance 


Funding information

Financial supports from Department of Science and Technology (SERB-DST) in the form of National Post Doctorate Fellowship awarded to Tanya Biswas; Department of Higher Education, Government of UP under Center of Excellence in Computational Biology and Institute for Development of Advanced Computing, ONGC Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Lucknow, Lucknow.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of LucknowLucknowIndia
  2. 2.Institute for Development of Advanced Computing, ONGC Centre for Advanced StudiesUniversity of LucknowLucknowIndia

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