Medicinal Alkaloids from the Mountains of Idaho
Veratrum californicum is a plant native to the mountainous regions of Idaho. Throughout the growth cycle of the plant steroid alkaloids are produced, interconverted, and ultimately degraded. Efforts in our lab focus on evaluating the composition of steroid alkaloids present in different parts of the plant (root, stem, or leaf) during the growth season. Motivation for this effort is the recent emergence of drug studies based on synthetic derivatives of cyclopamine and veratramine, two steroid alkaloids produced by V. californicaum. Cyclopamine has proven to inhibit the hedgehog-signaling pathway and has potential as a valuable agent in cancer cell treatments and psoriasis. Here we describe our efforts to extract the steroid alkaloids from V. californicaum using solvent soaking and ultrasonication followed by isolation with high-performance liquid chromatography and characterization by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry.