African database catalogues untapped regional bioactive source

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

North Africa is home to a large selection of bioctive comopunds such as saponins, tannins, flavonoids, coumarins, steroids, cardiac glycosides, free quinone and iridoids. ©iStock/Polhansen
North Africa is home to a large selection of bioctive comopunds such as saponins, tannins, flavonoids, coumarins, steroids, cardiac glycosides, free quinone and iridoids. ©iStock/Polhansen

Related tags: Natural products

A database of natural products (NP) isolated from native organisms of Northern Africa is now available online as its creators look to categorise the region’s untapped repository of bioactive compounds.

The Northern African Natural Products Database (NANPDB) consists of data detailing plant compounds with contributions from endophytes, animals (e.g. corals), fungi and some bacteria sources.

It also includes data from source organisms, references, biological activities and modes of action (antimalarial, anticancer, cytotoxic).

The database attempts to provide a reference point for the hundreds of bioactive natural products native to the North African region that could be an important reservoir for drug discovery.

Pharmaceuticals, which make use of NPs native to the region, include the antimalarial drug Artemimisin.

In addition, the microtubule stabiliser taccalonomide A, B, E, and N, derived from Tacca​ species, reports potential in treating cancer.

 “Although the database currently includes many known drugs and drug leads, the biological activity for the large majority of compounds has not been tested,”​ the database’s creators commented in a research paper.

“This opens a broad window of opportunity for further investigations in analysis of the bioactivity of selected compounds, and probing of the routes toward the biosynthesis of some of the identified metabolites.”

Virtual screening use

The paper goes into more detail about the database, which describes 4469 molecular entities mainly consisting of terpenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids.

Approximately 20% of NANPDB compounds have shown at least one biological activity, with around 100 known biological activities recorded, along with 36 distinct modes of action.

The majority of the known bioactive compounds are anti-infective (e.g., exhibiting anti-HIV, other antiviral, antifungal, antitubercular, other antimycobacterial, and antibacterial activities), cytotoxic, and potential anticancer drugs.

Furthermore, the research team say the low-energy 3D structures of the molecules are downloadable for non-commercial use such as for virtual screening projects.

Virtual screening is a well-established and powerful technique extending traditional high-throughput screening technologies.

“Computational models can complement resource-expensive wet laboratory experiments. Especially for natural products that are normally available only in low yields,”​ the team explained.

Some of the molecules noted in NANPDB, such as ellagic acid, have already been subjected to virtual screening studies as part of other molecular libraries.

The NANPDB is freely available to view here

Source: Journal of Natural Products

Published online ahead of print: DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.7b00283

“NANPDB: A Resource for Natural Products from Northern African Sources.”

Authors: Fidele Ntie-Kang et al 

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