Laura Guedes, Pedro B. P. S. Reis, Miguel Machuqueiro, Asma Ressaissi, Rita Pacheco, and Maria Luísa Serralheiro
Centaurium erythraea is recommended for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and to reduce hypercholesterolemia in ethno-medicinal practice. To perform a top-down study that could give some insight into the molecular basis of these bioactivities, decoctions from C. erythraea leaves were prepared and the compounds were identified by liquid chromatography-high resolution tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS). Secoiridoids glycosides, like gentiopicroside and sweroside, and several xanthones, such as di-hydroxy-dimethoxyxanthone, were identified. Following some of the bioactivities previously ascribed to C. erythraea, we have studied its antioxidant capacity and the ability to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGR). Significant antioxidant activities were observed, following three assays: free radical 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) reduction; lipoperoxidation; and NO radical scavenging capacity. The AChE and HMGR inhibitory activities for the decoction were also measured (56% at 500 μg/mL and 48% at 10 μg/mL, respectively). Molecular docking studies indicated that xanthones are better AChE inhibitors than gentiopicroside, while this compound exhibits a better shape complementarity with the HMGR active site than xanthones. To the extent of our knowledge, this is the first report on AChE and HMGR activities by C. erythraea decoctions, in a top-down analysis, complemented with in silico molecular docking, which aims to understand, at the molecular level, some of the biological effects ascribed to infusions from this plant.