Propolis samples from Kangaroo Island, South Australia, were investigated for chemical constituents using high-field nuclear magnetic resonance spectral profiling. A type of propolis was found containing a high proportion of prenylated hydroxystilbenes. Subsequently, the botanical origin of this type of propolis was identified using a beehive propolis depletion method and analysis of flora. Ligurian honey bees, Apis mellifera ligustica Spinola, were found to produce propolis from resin exuded by the Australian native sedge plant Lepidosperma sp. Montebello (Cyperaceae). The plants, commonly known as sword sedge, were found to have resin that matched with the propolis samples identified as the most abundant propolis type on the island containing C- and O-prenylated tetrahydroxystilbenes (pTHOS) in addition to a small amount of prenylated p-coumarate. The isolation of five pTHOS not previously characterized are reported: (E)-4-(3-methyl-2-buten-1-yl)-3,4',5-trihydroxy-3'-methoxystilbene, (E)-2,4-bis(3-methyl-2-buten-1-yl)-3,3',4',5-tetrahydroxystilbene, (E)-2-(3-methyl-2-buten-1-yl)-3-(3-methyl-2-butenyloxy)-3',4',5-trihydroxystilbene, (E)-2,6-bis(3-methyl-2-buten-1-yl)-3,3',5,5'-tetrahydroxystilbene and (E)-2,6-bis(3-methyl-2-buten-1-yl)-3,4',5-trihydroxy-3'-methoxystilbene. A National Cancer Institute 60 human cell line anticancer screen of three of these compounds showed growth inhibitory activity. The large Australasian genus Lepidosperma is identified as a valuable resource for the isolation of substances with medicinal potential.
Keywords: Anticancer activity; Cyperaceae; Honey bee; Lepidosperma; Prenylated hydroxystilbenes; Propolis.
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