Isolation of a dihydrobenzofuran lignan from South American dragon's blood (Croton spp.) as an inhibitor of cell proliferation

J Nat Prod. 1993 Jun;56(6):899-906. doi: 10.1021/np50096a013.


Dragon's blood is a red viscous latex extracted from the cortex of various Croton spp. (Euphorbiaceae), most commonly Croton lechleri, Croton draconoides (or Croton palanostigma), and Croton erythrochilus. It is used in South American popular medicine for several purposes, including wound healing. Bioassay-guided fractionation of dragon's blood, using an in vitro test system for the stimulation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells, has resulted in the isolation of a dihydrobenzofuran lignan, 3',4-O-dimethylcedrusin or 4-O-methyldihydrodehydrodiconiferyl alcohol [2-(3',4'-dimethoxyphenyl)-3-hydroxymethyl-2,3-dihydro-7-methoxybenzo furan-5- propan-1-ol] [1] as the biologically active principle. A related compound, 4-O-methylcedrusin [2-(3',4'-dimethoxyphenyl)-3-hydroxymethyl-2,3-dihydro-7-hydroxybenzo furan-5- propan-1-ol] [2], and the alkaloid taspine [3], also isolated from dragon's blood, were not active in the same assay. A cell proliferation assay, measuring the incorporation of tritiated thymidine in endothelial cells, showed that compound 1 did not stimulate cell proliferation, but rather inhibited thymidine incorporation, while protecting cells against degradation in a starvation medium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Anisoles / chemistry
  • Anisoles / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Benzofurans / chemistry
  • Benzofurans / pharmacology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Pregnancy
  • South America
  • Thymidine / metabolism
  • Umbilical Veins / cytology
  • Umbilical Veins / drug effects


  • Alkaloids
  • Anisoles
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Benzofurans
  • 3',4-O-dimethylcedrusin
  • 4-O-methylcedrusin
  • taspine
  • Thymidine