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Keywords:

  • estrogenicity;
  • estrogen receptor ligands;
  • ovariectomy;
  • vaginal stratification;
  • uterine growth

Erythrina lysistemon is an African medicinal plant used as a palliative for problems in women. The crude extract of this plant was shown to exhibit estrogenic effects on the female rat reproductive tract and on cell cuture. Using classic chromatographic methods, two compounds have been isolated as major constituents of this extract: alpinumisoflavone (1) and abyssinone V-4′-methyl ether (2). To determine whether both compounds are actives principles accounting for E. lysistemon effects, we applied the classic 3-day uterotrophic assay. We also carried out a ligand binding assay to determine whether the observed effects are estrogen receptor (ER) mediated. This study showed that whereas compound 1 displayed a fourfold preference for ERα, compound 2 bound ERα and ERβ with a same affinity. The in vivo study showed that compound 1 increased the uterine wet weight by 182.23% (p < 0.01) and 71.79% (p < 0.05) at doses of 0.1 and 1 mg/kg BW/day respectively. The uterine epithelium thickened dose-dependently. Vaginal epithelial height also increased by 369.97 and 226.76% respectively (p < 0.01). Compound 2 acted only on the vagina and increased vaginal epithelial height by 244.56% (p < 0.01) at 1 mg/kg BW/day. These results suggest that compounds 1 and 2 are endowed with estrogenic properties accounting, at least in part, for E. lysistemon effects. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.