Distribution of steroidal saponins in Tribulus terrestris from different geographical regions

Phytochemistry. 2008 Jan;69(1):176-86. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2007.07.003. Epub 2007 Aug 23.


The steroidal saponins of Tribulus terrestris L. (Zygophyllaceae) are considered to be the factor responsible for biological activity of products derived from this plant. The activity depends on the concentration and the composition of active saponins, which in turn is influenced by the geographical origin of plant material. Samples of T. terrestris collected in Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Vietnam and India were analyzed by LC-ESI/MS/MS for the presence and the concentration of protodioscin (1), prototribestin (2), pseudoprotodioscin (3), dioscin (4), tribestin (5) and tribulosin (6). The flavonoid rutin (7) was also included in the comparison. The results revealed distinct differences in the content of these compounds depending on region of sample collection, plant part studied and stage of plant development. The samples from Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Georgia and Iran exhibited similar chemical profile and only some quantitative difference in the content of 1-7 with protodioscin (1) and prototribestin (2) as main components. The Vietnamese and Indian samples exhibit totally different chemical profile. They lack 2 and 5, while tribulosin (6) is present in high amounts. Compounds different from 1 to 7 are dominating in these 3 samples. The presented results suggested the existence of one chemotype common to the East South European and West Asian regions. Most probably, the Vietnamese and Indian samples belong to other chemotypes which are still to be studied and characterized. No clear correlation between the burrs morphology and the chemical composition of the samples has been found.

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Western
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Europe
  • Geography*
  • Plant Components, Aerial / chemistry
  • Saponins / analysis*
  • Saponins / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Steroids / analysis
  • Steroids / chemistry*
  • Tribulus / chemistry*


  • Saponins
  • Steroids