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Planta Med. 2012 Feb;78(3):207-10. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1298171. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Discovery of GABA(A) receptor modulator aristolactone in a commercial sample of the Chinese herbal drug "Chaihu" (Bupleurum chinense roots) unravels adulteration by nephrotoxic Aristolochia manshuriensis roots.

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Division of Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

Erratum in

  • Planta Med. 2012 Feb;78(3):E18.


In a two-microelectrode voltage clamp assay using Xenopus laevis oocytes, a petroleum ether extract prepared from a commercial sample of the traditional Chinese herbal drug labelled as " Chaihu" (Bupleurum chinense DC. roots) enhanced the I(GABA) by 156 % ± 22 % when tested at 100 µg/mL. By means of HPLC-based activity profiling combined with high-resolution LC-MS and microprobe NMR, the germacranolide aristolactone was identified as one of the main active compounds (EC₅₀ 56.02 µM ± 5.09 µM). However, aristolactone has been previously reported only from the genus Aristolochia (Aristolochiaceae), suggesting a possible adulteration. With the aid of a validated HPTLC protocol for detection of aristolochic acids and with reference samples, the commercial sample was confirmed to be a mixture of Aristolochia manshuriensis root and Bupleurum chinense root. This finding was corroborated by macroscopic inspection of the drug. This case of adulteration with a highly nephrotoxic drug raises concerns about adequate quality control of TCM drugs commercialized in Europe.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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