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Lupane-type pentacyclic triterpenes (lupeol, betulin, and betulinic acid) are natural products isolated from various plant sources. The terpenes exhibit a vast spectrum of biological activity and are applied in therapies for different diseases, among which the anticancer, anti-HIV, antihypercholesteremic, and antiinflammatory are the most promising. These chemicals possess amphiphilic structure and were proved to interact strongly with biomembranes, which can be the key stage in their mechanism of action. In our studies, we applied Langmuir monolayers as versatile models of biomembranes. It turned out that the three investigated terpenes are capable of stable monolayer formation; however, these monolayers differ profoundly regarding their physicochemical characteristics. In our research, we applied the Langmuir technique (surface pressure-mean molecular area (π-A) isotherm registration) coupled with Brewster angle microscopy (BAM), but the main focus was on the synchrotron radiation scattering method, grazing incidence X-ray diffraction (GIXD), which provides information on the amphiphilic molecule ordering in the angström scale. It was proved that all the investigated terpenes form crystalline phases in their monolayers. In the case of lupeol, only the closely packed upright phase was observed, whereas for betulin and betulinic acid, the phase situation was more complex. Betulinic acid molecules can be organized in an upright phase, which is crystalline, and in a tilted phase, which is amorphous. The betulin film is a conglomerate of an upright crystalline monolayer phase, tilted amorphous monolayer phase, and a crystalline tilted bilayer. In our paper, we discuss the factors leading to the formation of the observed phases and the implications of our results to the therapeutic applications of the native lupane-type triterpenes.


Marcin Broniatowski, Michał Flasiński, Paweł Wydro. Lupane-type pentacyclic triterpenes in Langmuir monolayers: a synchrotron radiation scattering study. Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids. 2012 Mar 20;28(11):5201-10

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PMID: 22360277

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