Momordica charantia L. commonly known as
bittergourd is an economically important medicinal
plant belonging to the family cucurbitaceae. Two
varieties of this plant are cultivated in India 1. M.
charantia var. charantia with large fruits which are
fusiform in shape and 2. M. charantia var. muricata,
which are identified by small, round fruit . The
immature fruits are eaten as vegetables and are a
good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and phosphorus
and iron [2, 3]. The bitter flavour of both the varieties
is due to the alkaloid momordicine produced in fruits
Fruits and seeds of bittergourd possess
medicinal properties such as anti-HIV, anti-ulcer,
anti-inflammatory, anti-leukemic, antimicrobial, antitumor
and last but not the least the important
antidiabetic property .
The present investigation is being aimed in
studying the medicinal and, ethnobotanical
properties of Momordica charantia with specific
importance to antidiabetic property of the plant.
Furthermore estimation of genetic diversity among
12 different accessions of M. charantia growing in
different districts of West Bengal, using RAPD
markers has also been perfomed. A SCAR marker
has been developed by the present investigators to
distinguish the two varieties of M. charantia.
2. Phytochemicals related to anti-diabetic
It is evident from literature reviewed that diabetes is
a killer disease that affects human subjects of
different ages according to its type and the
recurrence is specially noted in Indian population .
Mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantins,
insulin-like peptides and alkaloids are the
hypoglycemic chemicals of Momordica charantia 
and these chemicals are concentrated in fruits of
Momordica charantia, therefore fruit of M. charantia
has shown most effective hypoglycemic property
(Table 1) .
2.1 Steroids, Charantin
Charantin (Figure 1) is one of the hypoglycemic
compounds, which can be isolated from Momordica
charantia fruit. It is a mixture of two compounds (1:1)
sitosteryl glucoside (C35H60O6) and stigmasteryl
glucoside (C35H58O6), both of which are steroidal
saponins. Lolitkar and Rao  have shown
charantin when taken taken either orally or
intravenously in rabbits, it produces hypoglycemic
Figure 1. Structure of charantin.
2.2 Protein, P-insulin
Protein P- insulin is a polypeptide with molecular
weight of about 11,000 Dalton and consists of 166
amino acids. Clinical study study revealed that the
polypeptide-p-ZnCl2 produced blood sugar lowering
effect. Khanna and Mohan  reported that besides
the fruits, p insulin was also found in seeds and
tissue cultures of Momordica charantia.
According to [10,11], seeds of bittergourd contain
pyrimidine nucleoside vicine. Vicine has been found
to induce hypoglycemia in rats, when administered
3. Medicinal uses
Medicinal properties include antimicrobial, antihelminthic,
anti-cancerous, anti-mutagenic, antitumourous,
abortifacient, anti-fertility, anti-diabetic.
Medicinal properties of M. Charantia are
summarized in Table 2.
4. Ethnobotanical uses
Chakravarty , documented about the
ethnobotanical uses of the plant in India. Since both the varieties grow abundantly throughout India, M.
charantia is a very important so far as ethnomedical
practices are concerned. Ethnobotanical uses of M.
charantia in India are enumerated in Table 3.
5. Molecular markers in M. charantia
Genetic diversity among populations can be
determined using molecular markers. Different types of molecular markers which has been used to
assess the genetic diversity of M. charantia are
mentioned be in Table 4.
6. APD Analysis
Two varieties of this plant are cultivated in India.
One is M. charantia var. charantia with large fruits
which are fusiform in shape and other is M.
charantia var. muricata, which is identified by small,
round fruits. The present investigation has been
carried out to determine genetic diversity using
RAPD marker and developing a SCAR marker to
distinguish between the varieties of M. charantia as
RAPD markers have been used extensively in
bittergourd to classify accessions identify cultivars
and analyze genetic diversity. Changyuan et al.
(2005) have employed RAPD markers in order to
detect genetic relationship in 45 bittergourd cultivars,
collected from different parts of South East Asia.
Dendrogram based on UPGMA cluster analysis
divided 45 cultivars into two groups- striped
protuberances and granular (thorny) protuberances.
Striped protuberances type included two groups,
which came from South-eastern Asia and China.
Granular protuberances type included two groups,
which came from Hongkong and China mainland.
Dey et al. (2006) have analyzed the diversity of
38 genotypes of M. charantia, collected from
different parts of India, both at morphological
(agronomic traits) and molecular (RAPD) level, RAPD analysis revealed 76 polymorphic bands out
of total 208 bands. The clustering pattern based on
yield related traits and molecular variation was
Rathod et al. (2008) have used morphological
characters along with RAPD markers to access
genetic diversity and relationships among 20
genotypes of bittergourd collected from different
parts of India. 69 polymorphic bands were obtained
out of total 143 bands. Dendrogram grouped the
genotype into 2 clusters – A, B. Cluster A consisted
of only one variety “Arka Harit” characterized by
plants that are highly susceptible to fruit fly and
downy mildew infestations. Cluster B consisted of
In our laboratory, RAPD markers have been
used to analyze the genetic diversity among 12
different accessions of M. charantia, collected from
different districts of West Bengal. Genetic variation
patterns of 12 accessions (V1, V2, V3, V4, V5, V6
and V7 belonging to variety muricata and V8, V9,
V10, V11, V12 belonging to variety charantia) of two
bittergourd varieties were examined using 23
selected RAPD primers. Amongst 23 primers used,
17 primers produced clear and reproducible bands.
Among 17 primers, 16 primers produced
polymorphic bands and only 1 primer produced monomorphic band. The highest number of
5’GACCGCTTGT3’ (Figure 2) (NC-Negative
Control). The similarity coefficients based on 81
RAPD markers ranged from 0.562 – 0.881. A
dendrogram was constructed by cluster analysis to
establish the affinity and relationship between the
12 accessions of Momordica charantia, using
average linkage between the groups.
The dendrogram divided 12 accessions of M.
charantia into 2 major clusters. It was observed that,
varieties - V4, V6 and V7 belonging to variety
muricata (based on morphology) grouped along with
the varieties - V8, V9, V10, V11, V12 belonging to
variety charantia (based on morphology) to form a
single cluster. Another cluster comprised of the
varieties - V1, V2, V3, V5 belonging to variety
muricata. Thus, the clustering pattern based on
RAPD markers was not in accordance with the
grouping based on morphological characters. The
similarity coefficients based on 81 RAPD markers
ranged from 0.562 – 0.881. A dendrogram was
constructed by cluster analysis to establish the
affinity and relationship between the 12 accessions
of Momordica charantia, using average linkage
between the groups. The dendrogram divided 12
accessions of M. charantia into 2 major clusters. It
was observed that, varieties - V4, V6 and V7
belonging to variety muricata (based on morphology)
grouped along with the varieties - V8, V9, V10, V11,
V12 belonging to variety charantia (based on
morphology) to form a single cluster. Another
cluster comprised of the varieties - V1, V2, V3, V5
belonging to variety muricata. Thus, the clustering
pattern based on RAPD markers was not in
accordance with the grouping based on
Due to the sensitivity of RAPD technique to PCR
conditions, there is less reproducibility of RAPD
results. This problem was solved by Paran and
Michelmore (1993) who first documented the use of
SCAR (Sequence Characterised Amplified Regions)
marker in lettuce, where the marker was related to
downey mildew resistance genes. SCAR markers
can be developed by producing primers from unique
polymorphic RAPD band. The primer is then
allowed to amplify the genomic DNA of any
particular genotype and not of other genotypes.
Thus, PCR conditions of RAPD technique can be
made more reliable by using SCAR markers.
Thus, we can take the help of SCAR markers in
studying the genetic relatedness amongst intra and
inter varieties and species of plants. Reproducible
SCAR markers for studying inter and intra specific
genetic diversity have already been successfully
obtained from RAPD fragments in Lactuca, Triticum, and Agrostis [72,73,74].
In the present investigation, one polymorphic
band was identified using RAPD primer
5’CAAACGTCGG3’. A SCAR marker was
developed from the RAPD data . This marker
will be useful for future studies to identify the polymorphisms (6) was observed with primer no. 5, molecular differences between the two varieties
used in agricultural practices.
Two varieties of M. charantia namely var. muricata
and var. charantia, grown in India are used for
various medicinal properties like antimicrobial,
antihelminthic, anticancerous, antimutagenic,
antitumourous, abortifacient, antifertility, antidiabetic. In vitro and in vivo uses of the compounds isolated
from extracts of M. charantia have been
documented in this review with retrospective as well
as recent publications. Ethnobotanical uses of this
plant in India suggest that it is capable of lowering
blood glucose level in diabetic patients. Thus,
numerous medicinal and ethnobotanical uses of
nearly all parts of the plant indicate a long
association of the plant with people, especially in
India. In the present study several plants were
collected from different districts of West Bengal and
subjected to DNA amplification. A polymorphic band
was identified and used for developing a SCAR
marker. Molecular markers such as RAPD and
SCAR could be used to explore the genes
associated with medicinal properties of M. charantia.
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