Human pharmacokinetics of ginkgo terpene lactones and impact of carboxylation in blood on their platelet-activating factor antagonistic activity

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2018 Dec;39(12):1935-1946. doi: 10.1038/s41401-018-0086-7. Epub 2018 Jul 27.


Terpene lactones are a class of bioactive constituents of standardized preparations of Ginkgo biloba leaf extract, extensively used as add-on therapies in patients with ischemic cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. This investigation evaluated human pharmacokinetics of ginkgo terpene lactones and impact of their carboxylation in blood. Human subjects received oral YinXing-TongZhi tablet or intravenous ShuXueNing, two standardized ginkgo preparations. Their plasma protein-binding and platelet-activating factor antagonistic activity were assessed in vitro. Their carboxylation was assessed in phosphate-buffered saline (pH 7.4) and in human plasma. After dosing YinXing-TongZhi tablet, ginkgolides A and B and bilobalide exhibited significantly higher systemic exposure levels than ginkgolides C and J; after dosing ShuXueNing, ginkgolides A, B, C, and J exhibited high exposure levels. The compounds' unbound fractions in plasma were 45-92%. Apparent oral bioavailability of ginkgolides A and B was mostly >100%, while that of ginkgolides C and J was 6-15%. Bilobalide's bioavailability was probably high but lower than that of ginkgolides A/B. Terminal half-lives of ginkgolides A, B, and C (4-7 h) after dosing ShuXueNing were shorter than their respective values (6-13 h) after dosing YinXing-TongZhi tablet. Half-life of bilobalide after dosing the tablet was around 5 h. Terpene lactones were roughly evenly distributed in various body fluids and tissues; glomerular-filtration-based renal excretion was the predominant elimination route for the ginkgolides and a major route for bilobalide. Terpene lactones circulated as trilactones and monocarboxylates. Carboxylation reduced platelet-activating factor antagonistic activity of ginkgolides A, B, and C. Ginkgolide J, bilobalide, and ginkgo flavonoids exhibited no such bioactivity. Collectively, differences in terpene lactones' exposure between the two preparations and influence of their carboxylation in blood should be considered in investigating the relative contributions of terpene lactones to ginkgo preparations' therapeutic effects. The results here will inform rational clinical use of ginkgo preparations.

Keywords: Ginkgo biloba; human pharmacokinetics; monocarboxylate; platelet-activating factor; renal excretion; terpene lactone.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biochemical Phenomena / drug effects
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / chemistry
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Ginkgo biloba / chemistry
  • Ginkgolides / blood
  • Ginkgolides / chemistry
  • Ginkgolides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Ginkgolides / urine
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lactones / blood
  • Lactones / chemistry
  • Lactones / pharmacokinetics*
  • Lactones / urine
  • Male
  • Platelet Activating Factor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Rabbits
  • Young Adult


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Ginkgolides
  • Lactones
  • Platelet Activating Factor
  • shuxuening