Biological Activity of Saponins from Two Dracaena Species

  • C. O. Okunji
  • M. M. Iwu
  • J. E. Jackson
  • J. D. Tally
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 404)


Many species of the west African “soap tree” Dracaena are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of a variety of diseases. In continuation of our search for anti-infective agents from plants implicated in traditional medicine, we evaluated the biological activities of saponins from extracts of Dracaena mannii and Dracaena arborea by using a battery of test systems such as radiorespirometry, Cytosensor®, bioautography, and agar dilution methods and molluscicidal tests.

Bioassay-directed fractionation of the methanol extracts of seed pulp using a combination of chromatographic techniques, gel filtration, droplet countercurrent chromatography (DCCC), and low-pressure liquid chromatography (Lobar), led to the isolation and characterization of spiroconazole A, a pennogenin triglycoside [3β-O-{(α-L-rhamnopyranosyl(1→2), α-L-rhamnopyranosyl(1→3)-β-D-glucopyranosyl}-17α-hydroxylspirost-5-ene] (Fig. 1). As the active constituent, spiroconazole A exhibited pronounced antileishmanial, antimalarial, and molluscicidal activities. This paper also reports on the fungistatic, fungicidal and bacteriostatic activity of spiroconazole A against 17 species of fungi and 4 of bacteria.


Visceral Leishmaniasis Cutaneous Leishmaniasis Fruit Pulp Agar Dilution Method Minimum Fungicidal Concentration 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adewunmi, C.O., and Marquis, V.O., 1980, Molluscicidal evaluation of some Jatropa species grown in Nigeria, Quart. J. Crude Drug Res. 18: 141.Google Scholar
  2. Anonymous, 1990, Antimonials large-scale failure in leishmaniasis “alarming”, Trop. Dis. Rsch. News (World Health Organization Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases) 34 (Dec., 1990): pp 1–7.Google Scholar
  3. Bryceson, A., 1987, Therapy in man. In The Leishmaniases in Biology and Medicine, Vol. 2, Clinical Aspects and Control, W. Peters, and R. Killick-Kendrick, Eds., Academic Press, New York, p. 847.Google Scholar
  4. Chemin, E., and Schork, A.R., 1959, Growth in axenic culture of the snail, Australorbis glabratus, Am. J. Hyg. 69: 146.Google Scholar
  5. Croft, S.L., 1988, Recent developments in the chemotherapy of leishmaniasis, Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 9: 376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Desjardins, R.E., Canfield, C.J., Haynes, J.D., and Chulay, J.D., 1979, Quantitative assessment of antimalarial activity in vitro by a semiautomated microdilution technique, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 16: 710.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Duncan, J., and Sturrock, R.F., 1987, Laboratory evaluation of potential plant molluscicides, In Plant Molluscicides, K. E. Mott, Ed., J. Wiley and Sons, Ltd., Chichester, p. 251.Google Scholar
  8. Godin, P., 1954, A new spray reagent for paper chromatography of polyols and ketoses, Nature 174: 134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Homans, A.L., and Fuchs, A., 1970, Direct bioautography on thin-layer chromatograms as a method for detecting fungitoxic substances, J. Chromatogr. 51: 327.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hutchinson, J., and Dalziel, J.M., 1958, Flora of West Tropical Africa,The CrownGoogle Scholar
  11. Agents For The Colonies, London. Vol II, part 1, p. 384.Google Scholar
  12. Iwu, M.M., 1981/82, Perspectives of Igbo tribal ethnomedicine, Ethnomedicine 7:7.Google Scholar
  13. Iwu,M.M., 1993, Handbook of African Medicinal Plants,CRC Press, Ann Arbor, p. 435.Google Scholar
  14. Iwu, M.M., Jackson, J.E., Tally, J.D., and Klayman, D.L., 1992, Evaluation of plant extracts for antileishmanial activity using a mechanism-based radiorespirometric microtechnique (RAM), Planta Med. 58: 436.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jackson, J.E., Tally, J.D., Ellis, W.Y., Mebrahtu, Y.B., Lawyer, P.G., Were, J.B., Reed, S.G., Panisko, D.M., and Limmer, B.L., 1990, Quantitative in vitro drug potency and drug susceptibility evaluation of Leishmania spp. from patients unresponsive to pentavalent antimony therapy, Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 43: 464.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Jackson, J.E., Tally, J.D., and Tang,D.B., 1989, An in vitro micromethod for drug sensivity testing of Leishmania, Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 41: 318.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Jha, T.K., 1983, Evaluation of diamidine compound (pentamidine isethionate) in the treatment of resistant cases of kala-azar occurring in North Bihar, India, Trans. Roy. Soc. Trop. Med. Hyg. 77: 167.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Keay, R.W.J., Onochie, C.F.A., and Stanfield, D.R., 1964, Nigerian Trees, Publ. Dept. of Forest Research, Ibadan II, 440.Google Scholar
  19. Mahato, S.B., Ganguly, A.N., and Sahu, N.P., 1982, Steroid saponins, Phytochemistry 21: 959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mebrahtu, Y.B., Lawyer, P., Githure, J., Were, J.B., Muigai, R., Hendricks, L., Leeuwenburg, J., Koech, D., and Roberts, C., 1989, Visceral leishmaniasis unresponsive to pentostam caused by Leishmania tropica in Kenya, Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 41: 289.Google Scholar
  21. McConnell, H.M., Owicki, J.C., Parce, J.W., Miller, D.L., Baxter, G.T., Wada, H.G., and Pitchford, S., 1992, The Cytosensor microphysiometer: biological applications of silicon technology, Science 257: 1906.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Milhous, M.K., Weatherley, N.F., Bowdre, J.H., and Desjardins, R.E., 1985, In vitro activities and mechanisms of resistance to antimalarial drugs, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 27: 525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Okeke, C.N., and Gugnani, H.C., 1986, Studies on pathogenic dermatiaceous fungi. I. Isolation from natural sources, Mycopathologia 94: 19.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Okunji, C.O., Okeke, C.N., Gugnani, H.C., and Iwu, M.M., 1990, An antifungal spirostanol saponin from fruit pulp of Dracaena mannii, Int. J. Crude Drug Res., 28: 193.Google Scholar
  25. Okunji, C.O., Iwu, M.M., and Hostettmann, K., 1991, Molluscicidal saponins from the fruit pulp of Dracaena mannii, Int. J. Crude Drug Res., 29: 66.Google Scholar
  26. Rocha, R.A.A., Sampaio, R.N., Guerra, M., Magalhaes, A., Cuba, C.C., Barreto, A.C., and Marsden, P.D., 1980, Apparent Glucantime failure in five patients with mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 83: 131–139.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. O. Okunji
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. M. Iwu
  • J. E. Jackson
  • J. D. Tally
  1. 1.Division of Experimental TherapeuticsWalter Reed Army Institute of ResearchUSA
  2. 2.NRC Senior Research AssociateUniversity of NigeriaNsukkaNigeria

Personalised recommendations