Identification of an African medicinal plant by DNA barcoding an study of its anti-HIV component

Yue Zheng

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


My thesis project deals with the identification, by DNA barcoding, of an African medicinal plant and the study of anti-HIV compounds from this plant. A first analysis of the ITS2 marker sequence determined from DNA extracted from the wood suggested that the plant could belong to the Cassia or the related Senna genus. A further analysis of ITS2 as well as of trnH-psbA spacer sequences from about 50 species of the two genera allowed me to identify the plant as Cassia abbreviata. The sequence alignments, which reveal unique features present in the Cassia but not the Senna sequences, were used to construct phylogenetic trees showing the clear separation of the species of the Cassia and the Senna genus. The two markers therefore allow a quick discrimination between the species of the Cassia and the Senna genus and appear to be excellent barcode markers for identification of these species. Following the identification of the plant I have tested the crude ethanol extract as well as 57 purified compounds from the plant for an anti-HIV activity. The extract, as well as one of the compounds, namely piceatannol, showed a broad spectrum of antiviral activities for HIV and HSV. They inhibited HIV-1 infection at the early stage against various reference strains and resistant clinical isolates independent of the co-receptor usage (IC50: 10.47-40.77 μg/ml, CC50>1000 μg/ml; IC50: 8.04-47.46 μM,CC50>300 μM, respectively). Neither the crude extract nor piceatannol had an effect on CD4 and CCR5/CXCR4. The crude extract blocked CD4-gp120 interaction while piceatannol did not, indicating that CE may target gp120 and piceatannol may act as a non-specific viral attachment inhibitor. Moreover, piceatannol inhibited HIV infection of TZM-Bl target cells in an in vitro female genital tract model and did not activate PBMCs, suggesting that it may represent a good candidate as microbicide. Other anti-HIV compounds found in Cassia abbreviata include oleanolic acid, palmitic acid, taxifolin and three other compounds the structure of which is presently being elucidated.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Université de Strasbourg
  • Seguin-Devaux, Carole, Supervisor
  • Steinmetz, André, Supervisor
Award date3 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2015


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