Bio-prospecting of Plants and Marine Organisms in Saudi Arabia for New Potential Bioactivity

  • Dina A. Hajjar

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The natural resources offer a unique opportunity for the discovery of active compounds, due to the complexity and biodiversity of their chemical structures. Natural resources have been used as medicines throughout human history. Saudi Arabia’s natural resources, for instance its terrestrial medicinal plants and the Red Sea sponges, have not been extensively investigated with regard to their biological activities. To better identify the diversity of compounds with bioactive potential, new techniques are also necessary in order to improve the drug discovery path. This study comprises three sections. The first section examines Juniperus phoenicea (Arar), Anastatica hierochuntica (Kaff Maryam) and Citrullus colocynthis (Hanzal); these herbal plants were screened for potential bioactivity using a newly developed pipeline based on a high-content screening technique. We report a new cell-based high-throughput phenotypic screening for the bio-prospecting of unknown natural products from Saudi Arabian plants, in order to reveal their biological activities. The second section investigates Avicennia marina plants, screened for reverse transcriptase anti-HIV bioactivity using biochemical assay. Image-based high-content screening with a set of cellular stains was used to investigate the phenotypic results of toxicity and cell cycle arrest. The third section considers the isolation of Actinomycetes from Red Sea Sponges. Actinomycetes bacterial isolates were tested for bioactivity against West Nile Virus NS3 Protease. Analytical chemical techniques such as liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS), gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) were used to gain more understanding of the possible chemical compounds responsible for this bioactivity. Overall, the aim of this work is to investigate the potential bioactive effect of several Saudi Arabian plants and Red Sea sponges against cancer cells and viral infections. Our study demonstrates the efficiency of the newly developed pipeline using cell-based phenotypic screening. Anti-cancer potential activity was detected in Juniperus phoenicea. Bioactive potential against the reverse transcriptase enzyme of HIV virus was confirmed in Avicennia marina leaves. The organic extracts of Actinomycetes bacterial isolates were found active against West Nile Virus NS3 Protease. Here, promising starting point for the potential of drug discovery of plants and marine organism of Saudi Arabia.
Date of AwardDec 8 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorTimothy Ravasi (Supervisor)


  • Natural products
  • Bio-prospecting
  • Bioactivity
  • Cytological Profiling
  • Chemical profiling
  • High-content Screening (HCS)

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