Background: Recent years have brought the dynamic development in studies of naphthoquinones
obtained from plants, in vitro cultures and semi- or total synthesis. This review presents the hairy
root cultures approach for producing naphthoquinones and summarizes their most recent anti-cancer investigations.
Objective: This review aimed to define biotechnological strategies impacted on naphthoquinones production
in hairy root cultures. Up to now the major source of shikonin/alkannin derivatives, rhinacanthins and
ramentaceone is isolation from plant material, also derived via biotechnological methods. Moreover, the
most recent anti-cancer activity studies on naphthoquinones which could be produced in hairy root cultures
Methods: For databases survey two selection criteria were used: (i) naphthoquinone could be produced in
hairy roots, and (ii) it exhibits anti-cancer properties.
Results: Ninety two papers were included in the review, thirty described biotechnological approaches
enhancing naphthoquinones production, among them twenty seven were dedicated to hairy root cultures.
Forty papers outlined the anti-cancer activity of targeted naphthoquinones including the type of cancer
and bioassays description. The synergistic effect of natural naphthoquinones and other anti-cancer therapies
was reviewed and toxicity of natural naphthoquinones and plant extracts was discussed. The review
highlights tendencies in hairy root investigations and indicates the possible future research directions for
improving biotechnological production efficacy.
Conclusion: This review demonstrates a great potential of hairy root cultures for naphthoquinones production,
which could be furtherly developed for future medical purposes, especially as anti-cancer agents.
This area of plant biotechnology will be surely still developed with traditional and new strategies.