• Vasudeva Reddy Netala Sri Venkateswara University
  • Sukhendu Bikash Ghosh Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division
  • Pushpalatha Bobbu Sri Venkateswara University
  • Dandu Anitha Sri Venkateswara University
  • Vijaya Tartte Sri Venkateswara University


Triterpenoid saponins, Biomedical importance, Cell cytotoxicity, Immunomodulating activity


Saponins are the potential bioactive compounds secreted by plants, endophytic fungi and marine organisms. Saponins are the glycosides containing non sugar portion, aglycone (sapogenin) attached to sugar moiety by glycosidic linkage. Depending on the chemical nature of aglycone, saponins are of triterpenoid and steroid saponins. The present review gives an overview of the biosynthesis pathway of triterpenoid saponins and mechanism of the biosynthesis. The review discusses the biomedical and pharmaceutical importance of triterpenoid saponins as they possess different activities including antimicrobial, haemolytic, hypolipidemic, immunomodulating and cytotoxic activities. The review also focuses on the mechanism of their action towards various activities.



Download data is not yet available.


Van Dyck S, Flammang P, Meriaux C, Bonnel D, Salzet M, Fournier I, et al. Localization of secondary metabolites in marine invertebrates: contribution of MALDI MSI for the study of saponins in cuvierian tubules of H. forskali. PLoS One 2010;5:e13923.

Hostettmann KA, Marston A. Saponins (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK; 1995.

Price KR, Johnson IT Fenwick GR. The Chemistry and biological significance of saponins in food and feedingstuffs. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1987;26:127–35.

Xu R, Fazio GC, Matsuda SPT. On the origins of triterpenoid skeletal diversity. Phytochem 2004;65:261–91.

Lilian UT. Potential health benefits and problems associated with antinutrients in foods. Food Res Int 1993;26(2):131–49.

Ridout CL, Price KR, DuPont MS, Parker ML, Fenwick GR. Quinoa saponins-Analysis and preliminary investigations into the effects of reduction by processing. J Sci Food Agric 1991;54:165–76.

Gurfinkel DM, Rao AV. Soyasaponins: the relationship between chemical structure and colon anticarcinogenic activity. Nutr Cancer 2003;47:24–33.

Rao AV, Sung MK. Saponins as anticarcinogens. J Nutr 1995;125:717S–24S.

Hideto K, Satoshi O, Mitsuo J, Yasuo K, Takuya K, Kazushige Y. Identification of novel saponins from edible seeds of Japanese horse chestnut (Aesculus turbinata Blume) after treatment with wooden ashes and their nutraceutical activity. J Pharm Biomed Anal 2006;41(5):1657–65.

Indena. Horse chestnut saponins 2005.

Olmstead MJ. Organic toothpaste containing saponin. US Patent 2002;6:485,711 B1.

Brand H, Brand E. A weighty issue. Soap, Perfumery & Cosmetics Asia; 2004. p. 27–31.

Anonymous. The fine line. Soap, Perfumery & Cosmetics; 2004. p. 57.

Yoo BH, Kang BY, Yeom MH, Sung DS, Han SH, Kim HK, et al. Nanoemulsion comprising metabolites of ginseng saponin as an active component and a method for preparing the same, and a skin care composition for anti-aging containg the same. US Patent Application; 2003.

Bombardelli E, Morazzoni P, Cristoni A, Seghizzi R. Pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations with antimicrobial activity. US Patent Application; 2001.

Lacaille-Dubois MA, Wagner H. A review of the biological and pharmacological activities of saponins. Phytomed 1996;2:363–86.

Milgate J, Roberts DC. The nutritional and biological significance of saponins. Nutr Res 1995:15:1223–49.

Francis G, Kerem Z, Makkar HPS, Becker K. The biological action of saponins in animal systems: a review. Brit J Nutr 2002;88:587–605.

Oda K, Matsuda H, Murakami T, Katayama S, Ohgitani T, Yoshikawa M. Adjuvant and haemolytic activities of 47 saponins derived from medicinal and food plants. Biol Chem 2000;381:67–74.

Oakenfull D, Sidhu GS. Could saponins be a useful treatment forhypercholesterolaemia? Eur J Clin Nutr 1990;44:79–88.

Baumann E, Stoya G, Völkner A, Richter W, Lemke C, Linss W. Hemolysis of human erythrocytes with saponin affects the membrane structure. Acta Histochem 2000;102(1):21-35.

Chapman L, Johns T, Mahunnah RL. Saponin-like in vitro characteristics of extracts from selected non-nutrient wild plant food additives used by Masaai in meat and milk based soups. Ecol Food Nutr 1997;36:1– 22.

Kim SW, Park SK, Kang SI, Kang HC, Oh HJ, Bae CY, Bae DH. Hypocholesterolemic property of Yucca schidigera and Quillaja saponaria extracts in human body. Arch Pharm Res 2003b;26:1042–6.

Francis G, Kerem Z, Makkar HP, Becker K. The biological action of saponins in animal systems: a review. Brit J Nutr 2002;88:587–605.

Matsuura H. Saponins in garlic as modifiers of the risk of cardiovascular disease. J Nutr 2001;131:1000S–05S.

Reddy RM, Latha PB, Vijaya T, Rao DS. The saponin-rich fraction of a Gymnema sylvestre R. Br. aqueous leaf extract reduces cafeteria and high-fat diet-induced obesity. Z Naturforsch C; 2011. p. 66.

Pushpalatha B, Ramamanohar RI, Netala VR, Nagam V, Tartte V. Saponin extract of achyranthes aspera prevents obesity and oxidative stress in high fat diet fed male wistar rats. World J Pharm Res 2013;3:1107-20.

Cheeke PR. Actual and potential applications of Yucca schidigera and Quillaja saponaria saponins in human and animal nutrition. Proc Am Soc Anim Sci 2000;77:1-10.

Sun HX, Xie Y, Ye YP. Advances in saponin based adjuvants. Vaccine 2009:27(12);1787-96.

Kensil CR. Saponins as vaccine adjuvants. Crit Rev Ther Drug Carrier Syst 1996;13(1-2);1-55.

Cox, JC, Coulter AR, Morein B, Lovgren-Bengtsson K, Sundquist B. Saponin preparations and use thereof in ISCOMS. US Patent 2002:6;352,697.

Mayank T, Matthia FM, Hendrik F, Alexander W. Chemistry and pharmacology of saponins: special focus on cytotoxic properties: Botanics Targets Ther 2011;1:19-29.

Friess SL, Standaert FG, Whitcom ER, Nigrelli RF, Chanley JD, Sobotka H. Some pharmacological properties of holothurin A, a glycosidic mixture from the sea cucumber. Ann NY Acad Sci 1960;90:893-901.

Liu Y, Lu WX, Yan MC, Yu Y, Ikejima T, Cheng MS. Synthesis and tumor cytotoxicity of novel amide derivatives of β-hederin. Molecule 2010;15(11):7871-83.

Feng Y, Wang N, Zhu M, Feng Y, Li H, Tsao S. Recent progress on anticancer candidates in patents of herbal medicinal products. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric 2011;3(1):30-48.

Zhang C, Li B, Gaikwad AS. Avicin D selectively induces apoptosis and downregulates p-STAT-3, bcl-2, and surviving in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma cells. J Invest Dermatol 2008;128(11):2728-35.

Gutterman JU, Lai HT, Yang P, Haridas V, Gaikwad A, Marcus S. Effects of the tumor inhibitory triterpenoid avicin G on cell integrity, cytokinesis and protein ubiquitination in fission yeat. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2005;102(36):12771-6.

Jayatilake GS, Freeberg DR, Liu Z. Isolation and structures of avicins D and G: in vitro tumor-inhibitory saponins derived from Acacia victoriae. J Nat Prod 2003;66(6):779-83.

Park JH, Kwak JH, Khoo JH. Cytotoxic effects of triterpenoid saponins from Androsace umbellata against multidrug resistance (MDR) and non-MDR cells. Arch Pharm Res 2010;33(8):1175-80.

Gauthier C, Legault J, Girard LK, Mshvildadze V, Pichette A. Haemolytic activity, cytotoxicity and membrane cell permeabilization of semi-synthetic and natural lupane-and oleanane type saponins. Bioorg Med Chem 2009;17(5):2002-8.

Acharya D, Mitaine-offer AC, Kaushik N. Cytotoxix spirostane-type saponins from the roots of Chlorophytum borivilianum. J Nat Prod 2009;72(1):177-81.

Gauthier C, Legault J, Lavoie S, Tremblay S, Pichette A. Synthesis and cytotoxicity of bidesmosidic betulin and betulinic acid saponins. J Nat Prod 2009;72(1):72-81.

Yao X, Li L, Wang N. New use of saponin compound for treating cardiovascular disease. CN Patent 2005:1:562, 064.

Hidvegi M. Process for the preparation of a pharmaceutical composition selectively lowering the blood-lipid level. US; 1994. p. 5, 277, 910.

Forse RA, Chavali S. Enternal formulations for treatment of inflammation and infection. US Patent 1997:5, 674, 853.

Kim DH, Bae EA, Han MJ, Choo MK, Park EK, Park JH. Novel use of the extract of processed panax genus plant and saponin compound isolated therefrom. US Patent Application; 2003.

Ma B, Dong J, Wang B. Use of steroidal saponins for the propylaxis or treatment of dementia, and novel steroidal saponin compounds. US Patent 2003;6:593,301.

Satoshi M, Erihi O, Satariyo G. Composition for preventing or ameliorating ultraviolet damage. JP Patent 2004;2:004,131,431.

Bombardelli E, Gabetta B. Soya extract, process for its preparation and pharmaceutical composition. US Patent 2001;6:280,777.

Rosen H, Blumenthal A, McCallum J. Effect of Asiaticoside on wound healing in the rat. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1967;125:279-80.

Incandela L, Cesarone MR, Cacchio M, De sanctis MT, Santavenere C, D’Auro MG. Total triterpene fraction of Centella asiatica in chronic venous insufficiency and in high perfusion microangiopathy. Angiol 2001;52:S9-13.

Liu J. Pharmacology of oleanolic acid and ursolic acid. J Ethnopharmacol 1995;49:57–68.

Yogeeswari P, Sriram D. Betulinic acid and its derivatives: a review on their biological properties. Curr Med Chem 2005;12:657-66.

Dourmashkin RR, Dougherty RM, Harris RJC. Electron microscopic observations on Rous sarcoma virus and cell membranes. Nat 1962;194:1116–9.

Bangham AD, Horne RW. Action of saponin on biological cell membranes. Nat 1962;196:952–3.

Glauert AM, Dingle JT, Lucy JA. Action of saponin on biological cell membranes. Nat 1962;196:953–5.

Keukens EAJ, de Vrije T, Fabrie CHJP, Demel RA, Jongen WMF, de Kruijff B. Dual specificity of sterol-mediated glycoalkaloid induced membrane disruption. Biochim Biophys Acta 1992;1110:127–36.

Keukens EAJ, de Vrije T, van den Boom C, de Waard P, Plasman HH, Thiel F, et al. Molecular basis of glycoalkaloid induced membrane disruption. Biochim Biophys Acta 1995;1240:216–28.

Kenji O, Matsuda H, Murakami T, Katayama S, Ohgitani T, Yoshikawa M. Adjuvant and haemolytic activities of 47 saponins derived from medicinal and food plants. Biol Chem 2000;381(1):67-74.

Augustin JM, Kuzina V, Andersen SB, Bak S. Molecular activities, biosynthesis and evolution of triterpenoid saponins. Phytochem 2011;72(6):435-57.

Krawczyk E, Suprynowicz FA, Sudarshan SR, Schlegel R. Membrane orientation of the human papillomavirus type 16 E5 oncoprotein. J Virol 2010;84:1696–703.

Lin F, Wang R. Hemolytic mechanism of dioscin proposed by molecular dynamics simulations. J Mol Model 2010;16(1):107-18.

Brown DA, London E. Structure and function of sphingolipid-and cholesterol-rich membrane rafts. J Biol Chem 2000;275:17221–4.

Kesselmeier J, Urban B. Subcellular localization of saponins in green and etiolated leaves and green protoplasts of oat (Avena sativa L) Protoplasma 1983;114:133–40.

Morant AV, Jorgensen K, Jorgensen C, Paquette SM, Sanchez-Perez R, Moller BL, et al. b-Glucosidases as detonators of plant chemical defense. Phytochem 2008;69:1795–813.

Steel CC, Drysdale RB. Electrolyte leakage from plant and fungal tissues and disruption of liposome membranes by a-tomatine. Phytochem 1988;27:1025–30.



How to Cite

Netala, V. R., S. B. Ghosh, P. Bobbu, D. Anitha, and V. Tartte. “TRITERPENOID SAPONINS: A REVIEW ON BIOSYNTHESIS, APPLICATIONS AND MECHANISM OF THEIR ACTION”. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 24-28,



Review Article(s)

Most read articles by the same author(s)