Background: Euphorbia species are known for the diversity of terpenes, and the presence of
toxic diterpenoids in Euphorbia species have raised occupational and eco-toxicological concerns. The
present study reports the terpene profile of Euphorbia tortilis Rottler ex Ainslie, along with cytotoxicity
Method: Triterpenes were isolated from the hexane extract of E. tortilis through column chromatography
and were characterized by various spectroscopic techniques. Phorbol esters were detected from the
methanol extract of the latex through high performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionizationquadrupole
time of flight tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-QTOF- MS/MS). Cytotoxicity of the extract
was tested against human cervical cancer cell line HeLa and normal cardiac myoblasts cell line
H9C2 using MTT assay.
Results: The pentacyclic triterpenoids 3β-friedelinol, 3α-friedelinol, friedelin, epi-friedelinyl acetate and
taraxerol were isolated and characterized from E. tortilis. Ten phorbol esters belonging to the tigliane
family of diterpenoids were detected through HPLC-ESI-QTOF-MS/MS method. The major tumor
promoting phorbol ester TPA (phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate) reported from Euphorbiaceae family
could not be detected in E. tortilis, whereas the potential anti HIV and cytotoxic phorbol ester prostratin
has been detected. Latex extract was inactive on the normal cell line H9C2 within the concentration
range of 10-100μg/ml, while the cell growth inhibition of the extract at 100μg/ml on Hela cell line was
Conclusion: Pentacyclic triterpenes were the major compounds isolated and characterized from E. tortilis.
HPLC-ESI-QTOF-MS/MS method has been found as an ideal tool for the detection of minor phorbol
esters. The terpenoid profile revealed the absence of toxic TPA. Furthermore, the latex extract was
non toxic towards normal cell line H9C2. The findings are relevant in the context of toxicological concerns
related to Euphorbia members.