Comparative study on alkaloids and their anti-proliferative activities from three Zanthoxylum species
RATIONALE Alkaloids with significant therapeutic effects are the main active constituents of Macleaya cordata, which is a perennial herb plant in the Papaveraceae family. A systematic and novel method for speculating and identifying the structures of alkaloids in M. cordata fruits by high-performance liquid chromatography/quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (HPLC/Q-TOF-MS) with a screening procedure was reported. METHODS Investigation of mass spectral fragmentation of alkaloids was carried out based on the tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) data analyses of eight reference substances. The skeletons of alkaloids were determined by their ultraviolet spectra (UV) and MS/MS data. The substituent groups of the alkaloids were acquired through a screening procedure developed in our laboratory and MS/MS data. The substituent linkage sites were deduced by MS/MS fragmentation behavior, as well as biosynthetic pathways of related alkaloids. RESULTS The structures of 21 alkaloids were speculated in this study, 10 of which were reported for the first time in M. cordata. Furthermore, benzyltetrahydroisoquinoline and N-methyltetrahydroprotoberberine-type alkaloids were discovered, which indirectly proved that the biosynthetic pathways of benzophenanthridine alkaloids reported in Eschscholtzia california existed in M. cordata as well. CONCLUSIONS HPLC/Q-TOF-MS combined with a screening procedure was a systematic and reliable method for speculating and elucidating the structures of alkaloids. This study might be useful for the identification of other compounds in herbal medicines.