Induced production of antifungal naphthoquinones in the pitchers of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes khasiana

Haviva Eilenberg, Smadar Pnini-Cohen, Yocheved Rahamim, Edward Sionov, Esther Segal, Shmuel Carmeli, Aviah Zilberstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nepenthes spp. are carnivorous plants that have developed insect capturing traps, evolved by specific modification of the leaf tips, and are able to utilize insect degradation products as nutritional precursors. A chitin-induced antifungal ability, based on the production and secretion to the trap liquid of droserone and 5-O-methyldroserone, is described here. Such specific secretion uniquely occurred when chitin injection was used as the eliciting agent and probably reflects a certain kind of defence mechanism that has been evolved for protecting the carnivory-based provision of nutritional precursors. The pitcher liquid containing droserone and 5-O-methyldroserone at 3:1 or 4:1 molar ratio, as well as the purified naphthoquinones, exerted an antifungal effect on a wide range of plant and human fungal pathogens. When tested against Candida and Aspergillus spp., the concentrations required for achieving inhibitory and fungicidal effects were significantly lower than those causing cytotoxicity in cells of the human embryonic kidney cell line, 293T. These naturally secreted 1,4-naphthoquinone derivatives, that are assumed to act via semiquinone enhancement of free radical production, may offer a new lead to develop alternative antifungal drugs with reduced selectable pressure for potentially evolved resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-922
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Antifungal
  • Aspergillus
  • Candida
  • Chitin
  • Droserone
  • Naphthoquinone
  • Nepenthes
  • Pitcher
  • Plant pathogen


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