Phorbol esters

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Chemical structure of 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, a phorbol ester

Phorbol esters are a class of chemical compounds found in a variety of plants, particularly in the families Euphorbiaceae and Thymelaeaceae.[1][2] Chemically, they are ester derivatives of the tetracyclic diterpenoid phorbol.

Biological activity[edit]

Protein kinase C (PKC) is a phorbol ester receptor.[2][3] Phorbol esters can stimulate PKC in a similar way to diglycerides.[2][3]

Phorbol esters are known for their ability to promote tumors.[2] In particular, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) is used as a biomedical research tool in models of carcinogenesis.[4][5]

Plants that contain phorbol esters are often poisonous.[5]


  1. ^ Goel, G; Makkar, H. P.; Francis, G; Becker, K (2007). "Phorbol esters: Structure, biological activity, and toxicity in animals". International Journal of Toxicology. 26 (4): 279–88. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/10915810701464641. PMID 17661218. S2CID 11550625.
  2. ^ a b c d Evans, Gerald A.; Farrar, William L. (1998-01-01), "Phorbol Esters", in Delves, Peter J. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Immunology (Second Edition), Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 1940–1942, doi:10.1006/rwei.1999.0488, ISBN 978-0-12-226765-9, retrieved 2020-11-26
  3. ^ a b Weimer, R.; Richmond, J. (2015-01-01), "Munc13 and Associated Molecules☆", Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences, Elsevier, doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-801238-3.04674-2, ISBN 978-0-12-801238-3, retrieved 2020-11-26
  4. ^ Emerit, Ingrid; Cerutti, Peter A. (1981). "Tumour promoter phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate induces chromosomal damage via indirect action". Nature. 293 (5828): 144–6. Bibcode:1981Natur.293..144E. doi:10.1038/293144a0. PMID 7266668. S2CID 45253610.
  5. ^ a b Abdel-Fatta Rizk (1990). Poisonous Plant Contamination of Edible Plants. CRC Press. pp. 43–44. ISBN 9780849363696.