Narciclasine - an Amaryllidaceae Alkaloid with Potent Antitumor and Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Planta Med. 2016 Nov;82(16):1389-1394. doi: 10.1055/s-0042-115034. Epub 2016 Aug 19.


The isocarbostyril alkaloid narciclasine, also known as lycoricidinol, was discovered in Narcissus species (Amaryllidaceae) in 1967. A few years later, the 60S subunit of ribosomes, and thus protein biosynthesis, were shown to be directly targeted by narciclasine. Due to its selective and highly potent cytotoxic action on cancer cells, narciclasine was intensively investigated as an antitumor compound both in vitro and in vivo. However, narciclasine did not show a strong pharmacological activity in animal tumor models. During the last decade, new fascinating actions, mechanisms, and targets of narciclasine have emerged. This review intends to present a brief but comprehensive overview of these novel insights. Beneficial therapeutical actions have been reported particularly in brain tumor models. The translation elongation factor eEF1A, which does not only participate in protein biosynthesis but also in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton, was discovered as new direct target. Moreover, narciclasine was found to trigger actin stress fiber formation via the activation of the small GTPase RhoA. Progress has also been made regarding the pharmacokinetic characterization of the alkaloid. The synthesis of a great number of narciclasine derivatives led to a substantial understanding of its pharmacophore and of the structure-activity relationships. However, an optimized compound did not result from these efforts. Most importantly, a new field of indication has emerged: Narciclasine was proven to exert profound anti-inflammatory actions in vivo. Taken together, there has been a strong advance in the preclinical knowledge about the alkaloid. Nevertheless, narciclasine has not been tested in human clinical trials up to now.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids / metabolism
  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Narcissus / chemistry*
  • Phenanthridines / chemistry
  • Phenanthridines / metabolism
  • Phenanthridines / pharmacology*


  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Phenanthridines
  • narciclasine