Isolation and in vitro permeation of phenylpropylamino alkaloids from Khat (Catha edulis) across oral and intestinal mucosal tissues
Hamman, Josias H.
Viljoen, Alvaro M.
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Ethnopharmacological relevance: Khat, the leaves of Catha edulis, is used as a “natural amphetamine-like” stimulant in eastern and southern Africa, as well as in the Arabian Peninsula. Leaves are masticated to elicit a state of euphoria. Although the psychostimulatory effects of the leaves are attributed to the presence of phenylpropylamino alkaloids (i.e. cathinone, cathine and norephedrine), the extent of permeation of these alkaloids across the oral and intestinal mucosa has not been established. Materials and methods: Cathinone was isolated in the form of the oxalate salt from young buds, following acid-base extraction. High performance countercurrent chromatography (HPCCC) was used to isolate cathine and norephedrine, following borohydride reduction of a mixture of the three alkaloids. The in vitro permeability of these three alkaloids in their pure form, as well as in a crude extract, was evaluated across Caco-2 cell monolayers and across excised porcine intestinal, sublingual and buccal tissues. Results: The purities of the isolated cathine and norephedrine were in excess of 90%, thereby proving that HPCCC can be applied for efficient separation of these alkaloids from extracts of Khat. The apparent permeability (Papp) coefficients for the Khat alkaloids in their pure form were all above 1.0×10−6 cm/s, indicating that the transport of the three alkaloids across the selected biological membranes is comparable to that of the highly permeable reference compound, caffeine. Although readily transported across the various membranes, the alkaloids were transported to a lesser extent when present in a leaf extract, suggesting that other phytochemicals present in the extract influence their permeation. Conclusions: These results provide evidence that chewing of Khat contributes to the buccal and sublingual absorption of the psychoactive alkaloids in the bloodstream directly across the oral mucosal membranes. In addition, it confirms that these metabolites will be readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract when swallowed
- Faculty of Health Sciences