Antifungal activity is positively correlated to furanocoumarin content in extracts of the traditional phytomedicine northern prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum Mill. [Rutaceae]). The specificity of these furanocoumarins in inhibiting replication of DNA was investigated with reference to significant base composition differences between fungal and mammalian mitochondrial DNA. We developed a polymerase chain reaction–based assay to investigate whether (1) furanocoumarins inhibit DNA polymerization and (2) distinct furanocoumarins specifically inhibit DNA replication depending on base composition. Specific inhibition of DNA polymerization by 5-methoxypsoralen and psoralen through high–adenine and thymine (AT) (84.3%) and low-AT (51.9%) DNA, respectively, suggests that furanocoumarins inhibit replicative functions of genomes or of regions within the genome that differ in base composition. Greater overall inhibition of DNA polymerization by Z. americanum husk extracts than with single or mixed furanocoumarins suggests that inhibitory compounds in addition to the major furanocoumarins are present in Z. americanum.
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Vol. 79 • No. 6