Phenanthrenes: A Promising Group of Plant Secondary Metabolites

Barbara Tóth, J. Hohmann, Andrea Vasas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

23 Citations (Scopus)


Although phenanthrenes are considered to constitute a relatively small group of natural products, discovering new phenanthrene derivatives and evaluating their prospective biological activities have become of great interest to many research groups worldwide. Based on 160 references, this review covers the phytochemistry and pharmacology of 213 naturally occurring phenanthrenes that have been isolated between 2008 and 2016. More than 40% of the 450 currently known naturally occurring phenanthrenes were identified during this period. The family Orchidaceae is the most abundant source of these compounds, although several new plant families and genera have been involved in the search for phenanthrenes. The presence of certain substituent patterns may be restricted to specific families; vinyl-substituted phenanthrenes were reported only from Juncaceae plants, and prenylated derivatives occur mainly in Euphorbiaceae species. Therefore, these compounds also can serve as chemotaxonomic markers. Almost all of the newly isolated compounds have been studied for their biological activities (e.g., potential cytotoxic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects), and many of them showed multiple activities. According to the accumulated data, denbinobin, with a novel mechanism of action, has great potential as a lead compound for the development of a new anticancer agent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-678
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Natural Products
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 23 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Organic Chemistry

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