Phytochemistry Reviews

, Volume 11, Issue 2–3, pp 211–225 | Cite as

Hazel and other sources of paclitaxel and related compounds

  • Mariangela Miele
  • Anna Maria Mumot
  • Achille Zappa
  • Paolo Romano
  • Laura Ottaggio


Taxanes form a large family of compounds, the most famous of which is paclitaxel, an effective antitumor drug currently used against various cancers. First approved for the treatment of ovarian and breast cancer, it was subsequently endorsed for the treatment of many other cancer pathologies. Originally extracted from the bark of Taxus brevifolia, it has also been found in other Taxus species. Most of the drug for clinical use is currently produced by semi-synthesis, starting from a natural precursor, 10-deacetylbaccatin III recovered from the needles of Taxus baccata. The yield of paclitaxel and its precursors from yew is very low, and is not sufficient to satisfy the commercial requirements. Many attempts have been made to explore new paclitaxel-producing species including microorganisms. However, the availability of paclitaxel and related compounds is still low. The discovery of taxanes in differentiated and undifferentiated tissue of Corylus avellana suggested that the production of these compounds is not a peculiarity of the genus Taxus, giving hope for the future availability of these compounds. Here we review works aimed at exploring new paclitaxel-producing organisms with different ecology to Taxus plants. Particular focus has been placed on highlighting the discovery of taxanes in angiosperm plants. Thus, it is conceivable that, by developing appropriate methodologies, new plant species could be employed for the commercial production of paclitaxel and other antineoplastic compounds.


Angiosperms Anticancer drugs Antimitotic compounds Corylus avellana Taxanes 



2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid




Phenylpropanoyl transferase


Geranylgeranyl diphosphate


High performance liquid chromatography


Isopentenyl diphosphate


2-C-Methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate


Mass spectroscopy


Naphtaleneacetic acid


Taxadiene synthase



We thank J McDermott for help in correcting manuscript. This work was partially supported by a grant from the Compagnia di San Paolo.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariangela Miele
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anna Maria Mumot
    • 1
  • Achille Zappa
    • 3
  • Paolo Romano
    • 2
  • Laura Ottaggio
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pharmaceutical SciencesUniversity of GenovaGenoaItaly
  2. 2.IRCCS San Martino University HospitalIST National Cancer Research InstituteGenoaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Informatics, Systems and TelematicsUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly

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