Smilax (Smilacaceae) is a genus of about 350 species, found in temperate, tropical and subtropical zones worldwide. The plants belonging to this genus are found throughout Asia, Europe, Oceania and the Americas. Species of the genus Smilax commonly called sarsaparilla are characterized as climbers, with long, thin thorny stem. The branches have tendrils which attach to other plants or objects and grow steadily upward. The roots of these plants have been used for centuries in Asia and the Americas as a tonic, diuretic and sudorific. The rhizome, roots, stems and leaves of sarsaparilla are used in traditional medicine. In the scientific literature, there are several reports on immunomodulatory properties, anticonvulsant, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, antidiabetic and antioxidant properties. However, there are no reports which explain the antioxidant activity of sarsaparilla extracts as a function of phenolic compound structures, such as flavonoids and phenylpropanoids. In this chapter, the relevance of phenolic chemical structure in antioxidant and anticancer activity of sarsaparilla extracts will be described. Special emphasis is placed on phenylpropanoid glycosides that consist of a sucrose core. These compounds are evidence of chemotaxonomy in the genus Smilax.
Part of the book: Phenolic Compounds
Phenolic compounds are secondary metabolites found most abundantly in plants. These aromatic molecules have important roles, as pigments, antioxidants, signaling agents, the structural element lignan, and as a defense mechanism. The expression of phenolic compounds is promoted by biotic and abiotic stresses (e.g., herbivores, pathogens, unfavorable temperature and pH, saline stress, heavy metal stress, and UVB and UVA radiation). These compounds are formed via the shikimate pathway in higher plants and microorganisms. The enzymes responsible for the regulation of phenolic metabolism are known, and shikimic acid is a central metabolite. The shikimate pathway consists of seven reaction steps, beginning with an aldol-type condensation of phosphoenolpyruvic acid (PEP) from the glycolytic pathway, and D-erythrose-4-phosphate, from the pentose phosphate cycle, to produce 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonic acid 7-phosphate (DAHP). A key branch-point compound is chorismic acid, the final product of the shikimate pathway. The shikimate pathway is described in this chapter, as well as factors that induce the synthesis of phenolic compounds in plants. Some representative examples that show the effect of biotic and abiotic stress on the production of phenolic compounds in plants are discussed.
Part of the book: Plant Physiological Aspects of Phenolic Compounds
An antioxidant is a substance that at low concentrations delays or prevents oxidation of a substrate. Antioxidant compounds act through several chemical mechanisms: hydrogen atom transfer (HAT), single electron transfer (SET), and the ability to chelate transition metals. The importance of antioxidant mechanisms is to understand the biological meaning of antioxidants, their possible uses, their production by organic synthesis or biotechnological methods, or for the standardization of the determination of antioxidant activity. In general, antioxidant molecules can react either by multiple mechanisms or by a predominant mechanism. The chemical structure of the antioxidant substance allows understanding of the antioxidant reaction mechanism. This chapter reviews the in vitro antioxidant reaction mechanisms of organic compounds polyphenols, carotenoids, and vitamins C against free radicals (FR) and prooxidant compounds under diverse conditions, as well as the most commonly used methods to evaluate the antioxidant activity of these compounds according to the mechanism involved in the reaction with free radicals and the methods of in vitro antioxidant evaluation that are used frequently depending on the reaction mechanism of the antioxidant.
Part of the book: Antioxidants