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Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Sep; 107(9): 753–756.
PMCID: PMC1566443
Research Article

Tumor promoters in commercial indoor-plant cultivars of the Euphorbiaceae.


Certain decorative indoor-plant cultivars are derived from toxic wild plant species. Native members of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) contain highly irritating and tumor-promoting diterpene esters. Plant breeders and gardeners are constantly searching for less toxic cultivars of the popular Euphorbiaceae indoor plants. In this investigation, 22 commercial cultivars of Euphorbiaceae indoor plants were examined for tumor promoter contents by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Cultivars of E. milii (E. lomii hybrids), and in particular E. leuconeura, contained ingenol derivatives, whereas cultivars of E. pulcherrima and Codiaeum variegatum were devoid of these compounds. Tumor-promoting activity was assessed by induction of a luciferase reporter gene, which was placed under the control of an Epstein-Barr virus early antigen promoter. The response was closely correlated with ingenol ester content; the latex of the two E. leuconeura cultivars tested gave the strongest response. The HPLC and bioassay methods used in this study provide a basis for the development of nontoxic indoor-plant cultivars and perhaps for consumer-oriented labeling.

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Selected References

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