Veratrum californicum is a rich source of steroidal alkaloids, many of which have proven to be antagonists of the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway that becomes aberrant in over twenty types of cancer. These alkaloids first became known in the 1950's due to their teratogenic properties, which resulted in newborn and fetal lambs developing cyclopia as a result of pregnant ewes consuming Veratrum californicum. It was discovered that the alkaloids in V. californicum were concentrated in the root and rhizome of the plant with much lower amounts of the most active alkaloid, cyclopamine, present in the aerial plant, especially in the late growth season. Inspired by the limitations in analytical instrumentation and methods available to researchers at the time of the original investigation, we have used state-of-the-art instrumentation and modern analytical methods to quantitate four steroidal alkaloids based on study parameters including plant part, harvest location, and growth stage. The results of the current inquiry detail differences in alkaloid composition based on the study parameters, provide a detailed assessment for alkaloids that have been characterized previously (cyclopamine, veratramine, muldamine and isorubijervine), and identify at least six alkaloids that have not been previously characterized. This study provides insight into optimal harvest time, plant growth stage, harvest location, and plant part required to isolate, yet to be characterized, alkaloids of interest for exploration as Hh pathway antagonists with desirable medicinal properties.
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Turner, Matthew W.; Rossi, Meagan; Campfield, Vannessa; French, John; Hunt, Ellie; Wade, Emily; and McDougal, Owen M. (2019). "Steroidal Alkaloid Variation in Veratrum californicum as Determined by Modern Methods of Analytical Analysis". Fitoterapia, 137, 104281-1 - 104281-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fitote.2019.104281