Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge, called Dan shen in China, is a well-known traditional Chinese herb and has been used widely for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases due to its better performance and fewer side effects as confirmed in the long-time clinical use. Tanshinones, one class of lipid-soluble diterpene quinones from S. miltiorrhiza, were found to exhibit various pharmacological activities such as anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. Due to the great importance of tanshinone and to its complex chemical nature as well as low content in plants, many efforts have been made to improve tanshinone production including hairy root culture, elicitor treatment and genetic engineering with new advance in recent years. Pharmacological activities of tanshinones and metabolic regulation of tanshinones biosynthesis in S. miltiorrhiza were reviewed in this paper.
Key words: Tanshinones, hairy root, elicitors, metabolic engineering.
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