Background: An optimized method for indirect shoot organogenesis from the leaf explants of Hygrophila pogonocalyx, a rare and endemic species in Taiwan, was developed to supply enough quantity of plant materials for the first chemical and pharmacological investigation. Results: Incubation of the young leaves on Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium supplemented with 6-benzylaminopurine (0.5 mg/l) and indole-3-acetic acid (0.1 mg/l) resulted in the best multiplication rate for organogenesis. The average number of adventitious buds per leaf was 22.8 ± 1.9 after 8-week culture. The adventitious buds rooted and developed into plantlets when cultured simply on MS medium. Using this protocol, up to 37,600 plants were produced from a single leaf explant in one year. From the ethanol extract of the leaves of this micropropagated plant, 13 compounds were isolated and identified, including two flavones (1, 11), four flavonols (9, 10, 12, and 13), three phenylethanoid glycosides (6-8), two alkylated glycosides (2-3), and two steroids (4-5). Of these, acteoside (7) exhibited anti-tyrosinase activity in human epidermal melanocytes and luteolin 7-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (11) exhibited the greatest neurocytoprotective activity. Conclusions: The method, indirect shoot organogenesis from leaf explants of H. pogonocalyx, could be developed to supply enough quantity of plant materials for the chemical and pharmacological investigation. In the present study, the isolated active compounds may develop for whitening agents or treating neurodegenerative diseases in the future.
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