In vitro production of huperzine A, a promising drug candidate for Alzheimer's disease

Phytochemistry. 2008 Jul;69(10):2022-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2008.04.017. Epub 2008 Jun 5.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is growing in impact on human health. With no known cure, AD is one of the most expensive diseases in the world to treat. Huperzine A (HupA), a anti-AD drug candidate from the traditional Chinese medicine Qian Ceng Ta (Huperzia serrata), has been shown to be a powerful and selective inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase and has attracted widespread attention because of its unique pharmacological activities and low toxicity. As a result, HupA is becoming an important lead compound for drugs to treat AD. HupA is obtained naturally from very limited and slowly growing natural resources, members of the Huperziaceae. Unfortunately, the content of HupA is very low in the raw plant material. This has led to strong interest in developing sources of HupA. We have developed a method to propagate in vitro tissues of Phlegmariurus squarrosus, a member of the Huperziaceae, that produce high levels of HupA. The in vitro propagated tissues produce even higher levels of HupA than the natural plant, and may represent an excellent source for HupA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids
  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Huperzia / chemistry
  • Huperzia / growth & development
  • Huperzia / metabolism
  • Molecular Structure
  • Sesquiterpenes / chemistry*
  • Sesquiterpenes / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Alkaloids
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • huperzine A