Plants (Basel). 2021 Mar 1;10(3):462. doi: 10.3390/plants10030462.
Phaeanthus ophthalmicus (Roxb. ex G.Don) J.Sinclair (previously known as P. ebracteolatus (Presl) Merr) is a Philippine medicinal plant occurring as evergreen shrub in the lowland forests of Luzon islands. It is used traditionally by Filipinos to treat bacterial conjunctivitis, ulcer and wound infections. Based on previous investigations where cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) functions as immune-linked factor in infectious sensitivities to bacterial pathogens by triggering pro-inflammatory immune-associated reactions, we investigated the antimicrobial and COX inhibitory activities of the extracts and tetrahydrobisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids of P. ophthalmicus in vitro and in silico to validate its ethnomedicinal uses. Thus, the dichloromethane-methanol (DCM-MeOH) crude extract and alkaloid extracts exhibiting antibacterial activities against drug-resistant bacterial strains such as methicillin-resistance Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), Klebsiella pneumoniae + CRE and Pseudomonas aeruginosa + MBL afforded (+)-tetrandrine (1) and (+)-limacusine (2) as the major biologically active tetrahydrobisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloidal constituents after purification. Both tetrahydrobisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids 1 and 2 showed broad spectrum antibacterial activity with strongest inhibition against the Gram-negative bacteria MβL-Pseudomonas aeruginosa Klebsiella pneumoniae + CRE. Interestingly, the alkaloid limacusine (2) showed selective inhibition against ovine COX-2 in vitro. These results were ascertained by molecular docking and molecular dynamics simulation experiments where alkaloid 2 showed strong affinity in the catalytic sites of Gram-negative bacterial enzymes P. aeruginosa elastase and K. pneumoniae KPC-2 carbapenemase (enzymes involved in infectivity mechanisms), and of ovine COX-2. Overall, our study provides credence on the ethnomedicinal use of the Philippine medicinal plant P. ophthalmicus as traditional plant-based adjuvant to treat bacterial conjunctivitis and other related infections. The antibacterial activities and selective COX-2 inhibition observed for limacusine (2) point to its role as the biologically active constituent of P. ophthalmicus. A limited number of drugs with COX-2 inhibitory properties like celecoxib also confer antibacterial activity. Thus, tetrahydrobisbenzyl alkaloids, especially 2, are promising pharmaceutical inspirations for developing treatments of bacterial/inflammation-related infections.