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Br J Cancer. 2000 Oct; 83(7): 914–920.
Published online 2000 Sep 4. doi:  10.1054/bjoc.2000.1368
PMCID: PMC2374682

Carcinogenic effects of ptaquiloside in bracken fern and related compounds


Consumption of the bracken fern Pteridium aquilinum by cattle has been shown to induce bladder and intestinal carcinomas in cattle and to cause a number of diseases in other farm animals. An unstable glucoside named ptaquiloside, containing a reactive cyclopropane ring, has been isolated from the fern and its potent carcinogenicity proven. Nineteen of 31 ferns tested by chemotaxonomic methods in Japan have been found to contain potentially carcinogenic ptaquilosides as have Cheilanthes sieberi and Pteridium esculentum. Hydrolysis of ptaquilosides leads to pterosins; under milder conditions a dienone which is believed to be the primary carcinogen is obtained. Hypacrone, a sesquiterpine containing a reactive cyclopropane ring, has been isolated from Hypolepis punctata and its structure proved by synthesis. Illudins, structurally similar to ptaquiloside, have been isolated from the basidiomycete Omphalotus illudens. These give anti-tumour activity and similar reactivity with nucleophiles to ptaquiloside. Compound CC-1065, a highly toxic antibiotic also containing a cyclopropane ring, has been isolated from Streptomyces zelensis. The mechanism of its reactivity with DNA has been compared to that of ptaquiloside and the small structural differences between carcinogenic and anti-tumour activity discussed. Both CC-1065 and adozelesin, a synthetic analogue with anti-tumour activity, have been shown to alkylate the N-3 atom of adenine in a certain sequence of DNA. The reactivity of cysteine with ptaquilosides and illudins is discussed, as is the role of cysteine alkylating agents in apoptosis. © 2000 Cancer Research Campaign

Keywords: carcinogenic, ptaquiloside, bracken, ferns, illudins

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Selected References

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