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Structural characterization and antitussive activity of a glucuronoxylan from Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt

Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh)Nutt. from the Berberidacea family is a shrub widespread in the forests of theNorth American Pacific coast and is known also as a cultivated plant in gardensand parks called mahonia. It has been used for a long time in homoeopathy as anorganotropic drug for treatment of inflammatory scaling dermatoses and, now, isavailable also as a topical antipsoriatic drug. The active principle of the mahoniaextract in the treatment of psoriasisis thought to be the alkaloids (Ha nsel,1992). However, there are opinions in the literature that other, not yet deter-mined compounds also may be responsible for the above- mentioned effect of the tincture. Since our ongoingprogram is directed towards the isolation of new, active poly-saccharides of plant origin, we subjected the mahonia tincture, for the firsttime, to analysis for the presence of carbohydrates and found that in additionto sugars it contained a mixture of low-molecular-weight polysaccharides (Kardosvova'  &  KosvtTa'lova',  1999).  The finding in our preliminary experiments that thesepolysaccharides showed immunomodulating activity induced our interest in mahonia as another plant source of potentially active polysaccharides. In the present work, we havestudied the hemi- cellulosic material obtained from the mahonia stems andprovide the results on chemical structure and antitussive activity of itsdominant component, a glucuronoxylan.