Background: Terpenoids are hydrocarbon compounds derived from common five-carbon
isoprene (C5H8) building blocks. They are formed through the condensation and subsequent modification
of isoprene units in various ways including – among others – cyclization and/or oxygenation.
Their synthesis is localized either to the chloroplast and/or to the cytoplasm/peroxisome/endoplasmic
reticulum and mitochondrion. Terpenoids represent a very large and diverse class of metabolites and
play important roles in plant growth and development. In addition, they have been intensively used in
human health care, disease treatment and in dietary supplements. Approximately 60% of natural products
known so far are terpenoids.
Results and Discussion: This review briefly summarizes the biosynthetic pathways of major plant terpenoids.
Then, five well-known and medicinally important diterpenoids, including paclitaxel, tanshinone,
ginkgolide, triptolide and oridonin are discussed in detail. Their structures, occurrence, extraction
and identification methods, pharmacological properties and clinical uses are also reviewed. Finally,
the prospects of using biotechnology to produce medicinally important terpenoids are also