The mold Monascus has been used as a natural food coloring agent and food additive for more than 1000 years in Asian countries. In Chinese herbology, it was also used for easing digestion and antiseptic effects. Through a thorough investigation of a citrinin-free strain: M. purpureus BCRC 38110, four azaphilones, three benzenoids, one benzofuranone, one 5',6'-dihydrospiro[isochromane-1,2'-pyran]-4'(3'H)-one derivative, two steroids, and six tetralones have been successfully identified. Among them, monapyridine A (1), monatetralones A-E (2-6), and monabenzofuranone (7) were first reported. Their structures were characterized by 1D and 2D NMR, UV, IR, and HRESIMS analyses. With a series of bioactivity screening, monascuspirolide B (14) and ergosterol peroxide (16) exhibited concentration-dependent attenuation of the paclitaxel-induced neurite damage of mouse dorsal root ganglion neurons. The interleukin (IL)-1ß-induced release of inflammatory cytokines IL-8 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a in human chondrosarcoma cells was inhibited by monapurpureusone (8) and monascuspirolide B (14). Altogether, M. purpureus BCRC 38110 possessed potentials as natural therapeutics against inflammatory osteoarthritis and paclitaxel-induced neurotoxicity.
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