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Related article: roots, which are slightly bitter, are also mildly laxative and are used in various parts
of tropical Africa for gastro-intestinal troubles, especially dysentery (Irvine, 1961),
and a poultice of the green leaves has been put on sores in Tanzania (Altschul & Lipp,
1982). M. thompsonii (Merrill) Fosberg has been employed medicinally in the Mariana
Islands TAltschul & Lipp, 1982).
In Brazil leaves of M. ilicifolia Reiss. have been used as a wash for cutaneous
cancers (Hartwell, 1968) and in Paraguay extracts of the plant have been used for birth
control purposes (Gonzalez Gonzalez t al., 1982). The bark of unidentified Maytenus
species has been used against syphilis in Brazil (Altschul & Lipp, 1982). Leaves of
M. pseudocasearia Reiss. are used for dysentery in Brazil (Altschul, 1973). Various
bark extracts of M. laevis Reiss. have been used in Colombia as an anti-arthritic
(Gonzalez Gonzalez e_t al . , 1982). Aqueous extracts of the stems, leaves, and seeds
of M. boaria find use in Central Chile for treating internal pain (San Martin., 1983).
- 133 -
6. MAJOR CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS AND MEDICINAL PRODUCTS
In addition to maytansine, M. buchananii contains the related compounds maytanprine
and may tanbu tine (Kupchan elt al. , I972b), and normaytansine (Sneden Buy Adalat & Beemsterboer, 1980).
Maytansine, maytanprine, and may tanbu tine have also been isolated from M. graciliramula
S.J.Pei and Y.H.Li collected in Yunnan (Li Buy Adalat J.Y.Luo and X.X.Chen (Wang t aU , 1981a) and, together with
maytanprine, in the stems of the same species (Wang et_ a_l . , 1977a).
Apart from the sperimidine-type alkaloids celacinnine and celallocinine (Kupchan eit al.
and the nicotinoyl sesquiterpene alkaloids maytoline, maytolidine (Kupchan e al . , 1977b;
review: Smith, 1977) obtained from fruits of M. serrata (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Wilczek
collected in Ethiopia, the chief secondary chemical constituents in Maytenus species are
the group of closely related ansa macrolide antibiotics whose major representative is the
maytansine, Co/H/.^ 1 ^ * mentioned above and originally isolated by Kupchan e a^. (I972a)
from the fruits Buy Adalat of M. ovatus (sic) ( M. serrata (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Wilczek. The species
M. serrata is a Buy Adalat poor producer of seeds and those of M. buchananii may in fact be an
improved source (Cordell, 1977).
A higher yield of maytansine is reported (Kupchan et al. , 1977c) from the stem of
related Putterlickia verrucosa Szyszyl. collected in South Africa; they contain 12.3mg
maytansine /kg. This shrubby plant is apparently easily cultivated in the USA and may be
a better commercial source of the compound (Trease & Evans, 1978).
Other substances isolated include various anti-tumour phenoldienone triterpenes from
several species (via Gonzalez Buy Adalat Gonzalez e_t al. , 1982). M. laevis has yielded, in addition Buy Adalat
to the phenoldicnones, a catechin and some pro-anthocyanidins (Gonzalez Gonzalez et Buy Adalat al. ,
7. HARVESTING, CONSERVING AND PREPARATION
Maytansine is obtained from the woody stems of Maytenus buchananii. The method used
by the United States Department of Agriculture Medical Plant Resources Laboratory for
their initial screening of material collected in the Shimba Hills, near Mombasa, Kenya,
was to mechanically chip the stems and then transport the material to a semi-desert region
for sun drying before shipment to the United States for processing. There was approximately
40-43% loss of moisture on drying (Perdue, no date).
8. ECONOMICS AND MARKETING
Maytansine was first isolated from the seeds of a Maytenus species from Ethiopia.
The species has been variously reported as M. serrata (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Wilczek,
M. arbutifolia (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Wilczek and M. ovata (Wall ex Wight & Arn.) Loes.,
an Indian species (Spjut. & Perdue, 1976, Perdue, 1976). This uncertainty well
illustrates the necessity of providing an identifiable voucher specimen when undertaking
a scientific study. The location of the voucher must be officially recorded. The yield
of maytansine was only 0.2mg/kg and it was considered doubtful if sufficient fruit would
be available to meet the demand.
- 134 -
An improved source was found in the Buy Adalat stems of M. buchananii from Kenya with a yield
of 1.5mg/kg (Perdue, 1976a). More recent findings suggest that the same source from
Tanzania is superior in yield. However, even higher yields of maytansine can be
obtained from another member of the Celastraceae , Buy Adalat Putterlickia verrucosa (E.Mey, ex Sond.) Buy Adalat
Szyszyl. from South Africa (Perdue, I976b,). Although stems contain 12.3mg/kg of
maytansine, the species was reported to be too widely scattered for economic harvesting
unless grown under cultivation (Perdue, 1976a, Kupchan t aj.. , 1977c). It is apparently
easily cultivated in the USA and may prove to be a be better commercial source of the
compound. (Trease Buy Adalat & Evans, 1978).
The long term future of the Celastraceae, particularly Maytenus buchananii as a
source of maytansine must be carelly assessed following the discovery by a research
group in Japan that the microsporum Nocardia sp. is a more efficient producer of
maytansinoids (Komoda & Kishi, 1980).
The major source of supply of maytansine has been M. buchananii in the Shimba Hills
of Kenya. There has been no evidence of regeneration from coppicing following the
initial harvesting in 1972, presumably because the plants are easily broken off at
ground level and relatively few stems were left. Cutting stems well above ground level
to encourage coppicing was attempted in 1976, no reports to date on the results. Natural
regeneration from seed seems probable (Perdue, I976a).
Vegetative reproduction by cuttings is practicable. The young plants produced viable
seed within a year under greenhouse conditions near Washington, DC. (Perdue, I976a).
Field trials in Kenva suggested that plants propagated from seeds did better than plants
Interplanting with shade trees such as Prosopis spp. or Leucaena leucocephala are
beneficial, resulting in better growth and earlier maturity (Haller, 1978).
10. MAJOR DISEASES
No problems evident as yet. Some insect damage reported, but can be controlled
11. OTHER USES
The fruits of M. senegalensis are eaten in Botswana and the yellow-white wood,
being hard and durable and with a fine grain, is used for walking sticks (Irvine, 1961).
In Lesotho, the wood of M. acuminata (L.f.)Loes., M. heterophylla (Ecklon & Zeyher)
N. Robson, M. undata (Thunb. ) Blake lock (and other species is used for building and as
firewood and fighting sticks (Jacot Guillarmod, 1971) and that of M. senegalensis (Lam.)
Exell is an important boxwood in Malawi (Williamson, 1975). In dry areas of Sudan,
M. senegalensis is browsed by goats and camels, and in Tanzania stock eat the leaves
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