Isolation, in vitro evaluation and molecular docking of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors from South African Amaryllidaceae.Fitoterapia. 2020 Oct; 146:104650.F
Inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is considered a promising strategy for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and dementia. Members of the Amaryllidaceae family are well known for their pharmacologically active alkaloids, including galanthamine, which is used to treat AD. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential of South African Amaryllidaceae species to inhibit AChE, to isolate the active compounds, and probe their ability to bind the enzyme using molecular docking. The AChE inhibitory activity of extracts of 41 samples, representing 14 genera and 28 species, as well as isolated compounds, were evaluated in vitro using a qualitative thin layer chromatography (TLC) bio-autography assay and Ellman's method in a quantitative 96-well microplate assay. Targeted isolation of compounds was achieved with the aid of preparative-high perfomance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The structures of the isolates were elucidated using nuclear magnetic resonance spectrocopy, and were docked into the active site of AChE to rationalise their biological activities. The most active species were found to be Amaryllis belladonna L (IC50 14.3 ± 2.6 μg/mL), Nerine huttoniae Schönland (IC50 45.3 ± 0.4 μg/mL) and Nerine undulata (L.) Herb. (IC50 52.8 ± 0.5 μg/mL), while TLC bio-autography indicated the presence of several active compounds in the methanol extracts. Four compounds, isolated from A. belladonna, were identified as belladine, undulatine, buphanidrine and acetylcaranine. Acetylcaranine and undulatine were previously isolated from A. belladonna, while belladine and buphanidrine were reported from other South African Amaryllidaceae species. Using Ellman's method, acetylcaranine was found to be the most active of the isolates towards AChE, with an IC50 of 11.7 ± 0.7 μM, comparable to that of galanthamine (IC50 = 6.19 ± 2.60 μM). Molecular docking successfully predicted the binding modes of ligands within receptor binding sites. Acetylcaranine was predicted by the docking workflow to have the highest activity, which corresponds to the in vitro results. Both qualitative and quantitative assays indicate that several South African Amaryllidaceae species are notable AChE inhibitors.