Written Paper

Screening species of Pilocarpus (Rutaceae) as sources of pilocarpine and other imidazole alkaloids  [2011]

Sawaya, Alexandra Christine Helena Frankland Vaz, Boniek Gontijo Eberlin, Marcos Nogueira Mazzafera, Paulo


Plants of the Pilocarpus genus (Rutaceae) are popularly known as jaborandi and are the only source of pilocarpine, an imidazole alkaloid used in eye-drops for the treatment of glaucoma as well as for the stimulation of sweat and lachrymal glands. Alkaloid extracts from leaf samples of seven species of Pilocarpus, from the states of São Paulo and Maranhão in Brazil, were analyzed using HPLC-ESI-MS/MS. The samples contained between 0.88 ± 0.04 and 1.00 ± 0.14% of alkaloids in relation to the dry weight of their leaves, with significant differences in results (P ≤ 0.05) found only between Pilocarpus microphyllus planted in the state of Maranhão and Pilocarpus spicatus, Pilocarpus trachyllophus, Pilocarpus pennatifolius and Pilocarpus jaborandi; as well as between Pilocarpus spicatus and Pilocarpus racemosus. Pilocarpine was not found in P. spicatus, whereas in the other species it ranged from 2.6 ± 0.1 to 70.8 ± 1.2% of total alkaloids. P. microphyllus planted in the state of Maranhão for pilocarpine extraction had the highest total alkaloid content, but it had only 35% of pilocarpine in relation to total alkaloids. Three other species contained more pilocarpine in relation to total alkaloids: P. jaborandi (70.8%), P. racemosus (45.6%) and P. trachyllophus (38.7%); and could be candidates for pilocarpine extraction. Differences in alkaloid content were significant for all these samples (P ≤ 0.05). Imidazole alkaloids were observed and partially characterized
based on their retention times and high resolution mass. The seven species analyzed had different imidazole alkaloid profiles, but only one did not present quantifiable pilocarpine contents in its leaves. The Pilocarpus genus shows potential for the prospection of novel alkaloids.