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Concept: Taxus


The taxanes (paclitaxel and docetaxel) represent an important class of antineoplastic agents that interfere with microtubule function leading to altered mitosis and cellular death. Paclitaxel (Taxol(®)) was originally extracted from a yew tree (Taxus spp., Taxaceae) a small slow-growing evergreen, coniferous tree. Due to the initial scarcity of paclitaxel, docetaxel (Taxotere(®)) a semisynthetic analog of paclitaxel produced from the needles of European yew tree, Taxus baccata was developed. Docetaxel differs from paclitaxel in two positions in its chemical structure and this small alteration makes it more water soluble. Today, paclitaxel and docetaxel are widely prescribed antineoplastic agents for a broad range of malignancies including lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, gastric cancer, esophageal cancer, bladder cancer, and other carcinomas. Although very active clinically, paclitaxel and docetaxel have several clinical problems including poor drug solubility, serious dose-limiting toxicities such as myelosuppression, peripheral sensory neuropathy, allergic reactions, and eventual development of drug resistance. A number of these side effects have been associated with the solvents used for dilution of these antineoplastic agents: Cremophor EL for paclitaxel and polysorbate 80 for docetaxel. In addition, reports have linked these solvents to the alterations in paclitaxel and docetaxel pharmacokinetic profiles. In this review, we provide preclinical and clinical data on several novel taxanes formulations and analogs which are currently US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved or in clinical development in various solid tumor malignancies. Of the new taxanes nab-paclitaxel and cabazitaxel have enjoyed clinical success and are FDA-approved; while many of the other compounds described in this review are unlikely to be further developed for clinical use in daily practice. Furthermore, the successful clinical emergence of novel nontaxane microtubule-targeting chemotherapy agents such as epothilones and eribulin is liable to further restrict the development of novel taxanes.

Concepts: Cancer, Metastasis, Lung cancer, Chemotherapy, Squamous cell carcinoma, Paclitaxel, Taxus, Taxus baccata


This paper describes two fatalities, three non-fatal intentional and three accidental oral ingestions of yew (Taxus baccata) leaves. In all cases the post-mortem external examinations showed no signs of violence. Internal examinations revealed small green, needle-like particles on the tongue, in the esophagus and in the stomach. Yew leaves were also identified in the stomach contents, whereas Taxus leaves were cut into small pieces and then ingested in one case. The analytical method used was based on a liquid-liquid-extraction under alkaline conditions followed by LC-MS/MS analysis (QTRAP 5500). Chromatographic separation was achieved by HPLC on a Kinetex C18 2.6u (100×3)mm. The analytical method allows the simultaneous identification and quantification of the commercially available yew alkaloids taxoids (m/z): paclitaxel (854.2→105.0/286.1), 10-deacetyltaxol (10-DAT: 812.2→105.0/286.1), baccatin III (BAC III: 604.0→105.0/327.0), 10-deacetylbaccatin III (10-DAB III: 562.1→105.0/327.0), cephalomannine [taxol B] (562.1→105.0/327.0) and of 3,5-dimethoxyphenol (3,5-DMP: 155.0→111.9/122.9) also encompassing the qualitative analysis of the alkaloidal diterpenoids (Q1→194.0/107.0); reference mass spectra obtained from a yew leaves extract: monoacetyltaxine (MAT: 568.4), taxine B (584.2), monohydroxydiacetyltaxine (MHDAT: 626.4), triacetyltaxine (TAT: 652.4), monohydroxytriacetyltaxine (MHTAT: 668.4). In both fatalities, paclitaxel, 10-DAT and cephalomannine were not identified in urine, cardiac and femoral blood but all taxoids and 3,5-DMP were present in stomach content and excreted into the bile. In urine, highest 3,5-DMP concentration was 7500μg/L and 23,000μg/L after enzymatic hydrolysis, respectively. In intentional and accidental poisonings, when electrocardiogram (ECG) examinations revealed ventricular tachycardia and/or prolonged QRS intervals, taxines were identified in plasma/serum, even after the ingestion of a few number of yew leaves, when 3,5-dimethoxyphenol was not even found. According to the data from one near-fatal intentional poisoning, elimination half-life of MAT, TAXIN B, MHDAT and MHTAT in serum was calculated with 11-13h and taxines were detected up to t=+122h post-ingestion of approximately two handfuls of yew leaves.

Concepts: Ingestion, Digestive system, Stomach, Chromatography, Ventricular fibrillation, Electrocardiography, Taxus, Taxus baccata


Taxus baccata L. is an evergreen conifer whose plant parts are cardiotoxic. Only the red arils of the berries are described as non-toxic and taxane-free.

Concepts: Tree, Seed, Plant morphology, Pinophyta, Taxus, Evergreen, Taxus baccata, Aril


Genetic markers used in combination with network analysis can characterize the fine spatial pattern of seed dispersal and assess the differential contribution of dispersers. As a case study, we focus on the seed dispersal service provided by a small guild of frugivorous birds to the common yew, Taxus baccata L., in southern Spain. We build the spatial networks of seed dispersal events between trees and seed-plots within the studied population-local network-and the spatial network that includes all dispersal events-regional network. Such networks are structured in well-defined modules, i.e. groups of tightly connected mother trees and seed-plots. Neither geographical distance, nor microhabitat type explained this modular structure, but when long-distance dispersal events are incorporated in the network it shows a relative increase in overall modularity. Independent field observations suggested the co-occurrence of two complementary groups, short- and long-distance dispersers, mostly contributing to the local and regional seed rain, respectively. The main long-distance disperser at our site, Turdus viscivorus, preferentially visits the most productive trees, thus shaping the seed rain at the landscape scale and affecting the local modular organization. We end by discussing how DNA barcoding could serve to better quantify the role of functional diversity.

Concepts: Scientific method, Species, Plant, Tree, Plant morphology, Seed dispersal, Taxus, Taxus baccata


Frugivorous birds generally exhibit an unequal contribution to dispersal effectiveness of plant species as a function of their habitat adaptation and body size. In our study, we compared the effectiveness of multiple bird species that contribute to the dispersal of the endangered relic Chinese yew, Taxus chinensis. Seven bird species dispersed T. chinensis seeds, with Picus canus, Turdus hortulorum, and Urocissa erythrorhyncha being the main dispersers. The quantity part of dispersal effectiveness was strongly influenced by two inherent characteristics of disperser species: body size and habitat adaptation. However, the quality part of dispersal effectiveness was only influenced by disperser type. For instance, small generalist birds and large specialist birds removed more seeds than other type dispersers. Moreover, small birds and specialist birds contributed slightly more to the dispersal quality of T. chinensis than large birds and generalist birds respectively; however, these differences were not significant. Our results suggest that dispersal effectiveness is affected by variety in the body size and habitat adaptation of different dispersers. Therefore, such variation should be incorporated into spatial and temporal management actions of relic plant species in patchy, human-disturbed habitats.

Concepts: Plant, Bird, Albatross, Fruit, Seed, Seed dispersal, Taxus, Taxus chinensis


Taxus media is an important species in the family Taxaceae with high medicinal and commercial value. Overexploitation and illegal trade have led T. media to a severe threat of extinction. In addition, T. media and other Taxus species have similar morphological traits and are easily misidentified, particularly during the seedling stage. The purpose of this study is to develop a species-specific marker for T. media. Through a screening of 36 start codon targeted (SCoT) polymorphism primers, among 15 individuals of 4 Taxus species (T. media, T. chinensis, T. cuspidate and T. fuana), a clear species-specific DNA fragment (amplified by primer SCoT3) for T. media was identified. After isolation and sequencing, a DNA sequence with 530 bp was obtained. Based on this DNA fragment, a primer pair for the sequence-characterized amplified region marker was designed and named MHSF/MHSR. PCR analysis with primer pair MHSF/MHSR revealed a clear amplified band for all individuals of T. media but not for T. chinensis, T. cuspidate and T. fuana. Therefore, this marker can be used as a quick, efficient and reliable tool to identify T. media among other related Taxus species. The results of this study will lay an important foundation for the protection and management of T. media as a natural resource.

Concepts: DNA, Conservation biology, Polymerase chain reaction, Molecular biology, DNA sequencing, Seed, Taxus, Taxaceae


Due to an unfortunate turn of events, the funding note for Open Access publication was not properly provided in the original publication. Hence, the original article has been corrected. The opening line of the Acknowledgement section should read.

Concepts: Open source, Opening, Taxus, Taxus baccata


Yew plants are evergreen shrubs which are widely spread throughout the northern hemisphere. Taxane alkaloid derivatives, mainly taxine B, represent the main toxins of Taxus baccata and are highly cardiotoxic. Due to the lack of randomized clinical trials, case reports on accidental or suicidal yew intoxications build the only source of knowledge of clinical treatment options.

Concepts: Clinical trial, The Canon of Medicine, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Equator, Southern Hemisphere, Taxus, Taxus baccata


The fruit (aril) of the endangered genus Taxus plants is an abandoned herbal resource. Traditionally, people enthusiasticly focus on its bark, its renewable, tremendous arils fall into the soil with seeds after they are mature. The present research investigated the fruit of two species from the genus Taxus, Taxus chinensis var. mairei and Taxus media, with regards to their antioxidant and antihyperglycaemic activities, safety, and bioactive constituents. Results showed that T. chinensis var. mairei and T. media both had certain biological activities with T. chinensis var. mairei better in antioxidant activity and T. media better in antihyperglycaemic activity. Correlation analysis revealed that the differences in bioactivities depended on content of their mainly chemical components. The mice acute oral toxicity test indicated that the methanol extracts of the two biotypes of Taxus were safe. And nineteen compounds were tentatively assigned from the two varieties, via tandem mass spectrometry using a LC-ESI-Q-TOF-MS instrument, which included phenols, flavonoids and terpenes. These results indicate a possible application of Taxus fruit extracts in various fields like in food industry, however this still needs further investigations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Species, Plant, Chemical compound, Seed, Copyright, Taxus, Aril


The study aims to describe the management of a case of life-threatening yew (Taxus baccata) intoxication.

Concepts: Cardiac arrest, Taxus, Taxus baccata