ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE - Among amphibians, 15 of the 47 species reported to be used in traditional medicines belong to the family Bufonidae, which demonstrates their potential in pharmacological and natural products research. For example, Asian and American tribes use the skin and the parotoid gland secretions of some common toads in the treatment of hemorrhages, bites and stings from venomous animals, skin and stomach disorders, as well as several types of cancers.
OVERARCHING OBJECTIVE - In addition to reviewing the occurrence of chemical constituents present in the family Bufonidae, the cytotoxic and biomedical potential of the active compounds produced by different taxa are presented.
METHODOLOGY - Available information on bioactive compounds isolated from species of the family Bufonidae was obtained from ACS Publications, Google, Google Scholar, Pubmed, Sciendirect and Springer. Papers written in Chinese, English, German and Spanish were considered.
RESULTS - Recent reports show more than 30% of amphibians are in decline and some of bufonid species are considered to be extinct. For centuries, bufonids have been used as traditional folk remedies to treat allergies, inflammation, cancer, infections and other ailments, highlighting their importance as a prolific source for novel drugs and therapies. Toxins and bioactive chemical constituents from skin and parotid gland secretions of bufonid species can be grouped in five families, the guanidine alkaloids isolated and characterized from Atelopus, the lipophilic alkaloids isolated from Melanophryniscus, the indole alkaloids and bufadienolides known to be synthesized by species of bufonids, and peptides and proteins isolated from the skin and gastrointestinal extracts of some common toads. Overall, the bioactive secretions of this family of anurans may have antimicrobial, protease inhibitor and anticancer properties, as well as being active at the neuromuscular level.
CONCLUSION - In this article, the traditional uses, toxicity and pharmacological potential of chemical compounds from bufonids have been summarized. In spite of being reported to be used to treat several diseases, neither extracts nor metabolites from bufonids have been tested in such illness like acne, osteoporosis, arthritis and other illnesses. However, the cytotoxicity of these metabolites needs to be evaluated on adequate animal models due to the limited conditions of in vitro assays. Novel qualitative and quantitative tools based on MS spectrometry and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy is now available to study the complex secretions of bufonids.
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