Alkaloids pp 397-433 | Cite as

Antimicrobially Active Alkaloids

  • R. Verpoorte


Plants produce a broad variety of natural products. The data bank NAPRALERT listed about 88,000 natural products in 1988, of which about 16,000 were alkaloids. These so-called secondary metabolites most likely play a role in the interaction of the plant with its environment, e.g., to defend the plant against microorganisms or various predators. In the former case the plant secondary metabolites concerned are expected to have an antimicrobial activity, i.e., the phytoalexins. Phytoalexins are low-molecular-weight compounds, which are synthesized and accumulated in the plant after microbial infection (Paxton, 1981). Among the compounds recognized as phytoalexins are some alkaloids (reviewed by Kuc, 1992; Whitehead and Threlfall, 1992); however, the number of alkaloids that have been shown to possess antimicrobial activity is in fact much larger. There has long been an interest in screening plants and the derived natural products for biological activity, with the aim of producing new drugs. Since ancient times man has been using plants to treat all kinds of diseases. As infectious diseases are easy to diagnose, and the effects of an antibiotic can be observed clearly, it is likely that many traditional medicines have useful biological activity. Screening such plants has indeed shown that the incidence of antimicrobial activity found is much higher than for a random screening (e.g., Dorn-berger and Lieh, 1982; Elmi et al, 1986; Le Grand et al, 1988; Mitscher et al, 1987; Verpoorte et al, 1982b, 1983a). Studies of antimicrobially active plants have resulted in identifying many alkaloids that have such activity.


Antimicrobial Activity Antifungal Activity Terpenoid Indole Alkaloid Steroidal Alkaloid Quinolizidine Alkaloid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Verpoorte
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Pharmacognosy, Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug ResearchUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands

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