Effects of Uncaria tomentosa total alkaloid and its components on experimental amnesia in mice: elucidation using the passive avoidance test

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2000 Dec;52(12):1553-61. doi: 10.1211/0022357001777612.


The effects of Uncaria tomentosa total alkaloid and its oxindole alkaloid components, uncarine E, uncarine C, mitraphylline, rhynchophylline and isorhynchophylline, on the impairment of retention performance caused by amnesic drugs were investigated using a step-down-type passive avoidance test in mice. In this test, the retention performance of animals treated with the amnesic and test drugs before training was assessed 24 h after training. Uncaria tomentosa total alkaloid (10-20 mg kg(-1), i.p.) and the alkaloid components (10-40 mg kg(-1), i.p.), as well as the muscarinic receptor agonist oxotremorine (0.01 mg kg(-1), i.p.), significantly attenuated the deficit in retention performance induced by the muscarinic receptor antagonist scopolamine (3 mg kg(-1), i.p.). The effective doses of uncarine C and mitraphylline were larger than those of other alkaloid components. Uncarine E (20 mg kg(-1), i.p.) also blocked the impairment of passive avoidance performance caused by the nicotinic receptor antagonist mecamylamine (15 mg kg(-1), i.p.) and the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist (+/-)-3-(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl)-propyl-1-phosphonic acid (CPP; 7.5 mg kg(-1), i.p.), but it failed to affect the deficit caused by the benzodiazepine receptor agonist diazepam (2 mg kg(-1), i.p.). Rhynchophylline significantly reduced the mecamylamine-induced deficit in passive avoidance behaviour, but it failed to attenuate the effects of CPP and diazepam. These results suggest that Uncaria tomentosa total alkaloids exert a beneficial effect on memory impairment induced by the dysfunction of cholinergic systems in the brain and that the effect of the total alkaloids is partly attributed to the oxindole alkaloids tested. Moreover, these findings raised the possibility that the glutamatergic systems are implicated in the anti-amnesic effect of uncarine E.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Amnesia / chemically induced
  • Amnesia / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / drug effects*
  • Cat's Claw / chemistry*
  • Diazepam / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • GABA Modulators / pharmacology
  • Indole Alkaloids
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Male
  • Mecamylamine / administration & dosage
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Muscarinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Oxindoles
  • Oxotremorine / pharmacology
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Pirenzepine / administration & dosage
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Scopolamine / administration & dosage


  • Alkaloids
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • GABA Modulators
  • Indole Alkaloids
  • Muscarinic Agonists
  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Oxindoles
  • Piperazines
  • Pirenzepine
  • rhyncophylline
  • Oxotremorine
  • Mecamylamine
  • 3-(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl)propyl-1-phosphonic acid
  • Scopolamine
  • Diazepam