beta-Carboline alkaloids: biochemical and pharmacological functions

Curr Med Chem. 2007;14(4):479-500. doi: 10.2174/092986707779940998.


beta-Carboline alkaloids are a large group of natural and synthetic indole alkaloids with different degrees of aromaticity, some of which are widely distributed in nature, including various plants, foodstuffs, marine creatures, insects, mammalians as well as human tissues and body fluids. These compounds are of great interest due to their diverse biological activities. Particularly, these compounds have been shown to intercalate into DNA, to inhibit CDK, Topisomerase, and monoamine oxidase, and to interact with benzodiazepine receptors and 5-hydroxy serotonin receptors. Furthermore, these chemicals also demonstrated a broad spectrum of pharmacological properties including sedative, anxiolytic, hypnotic, anticonvulsant, antitumor, antiviral, antiparasitic as well as antimicrobial activities. In this review, we summerized the biochemical and pharmacological functions of beta-carboline alkaloids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids
  • Carbolines / chemistry
  • Carbolines / pharmacology*
  • Carbolines / therapeutic use*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Intercalating Agents
  • Molecular Structure
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Alkaloids
  • Carbolines
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Intercalating Agents
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, Serotonin