Changes in the brain cortex of rabbits on a cholesterol-rich diet following supplementation with a herbal extract of Tribulus terrestris

Histol Histopathol. 2009 Jun;24(6):683-92. doi: 10.14670/HH-24.683.


Extracts of the medicinal herb Tribulus terrestris (TT) are used for treating various diseases. The saponins, a component of TT, play a role in regulating blood pressure and in treatment of hyperlipidemia. The aim of the study was to investigate the immunohistochemical and ultrastructural alterations in the cerebral cortex of experimental rabbits on a cholesterol rich diet treated with TT. The rabbits were divided into three groups and followed for 12 weeks as control group (CG); experimental group I (EG-I), fed with a cholesterol-rich diet; experimental group II (EG-II), treated with an extract of TT (5 mg/kg/day) after a cholesterol-rich diet of 4 weeks. In EG-I there were ultrastructural changes, including mitochondrial degeneration, increased lipofuscin pigments, myelin sheath damage with axoplasmic shrinkage and electron dense granules in the neurovascular unit. The number of synapses apparently decreased in both experimental groups. Administration of TT extract in EG-II led to marked ultrastructural alterations in neurons, including decreased mitochondrial degeneration (P<0.001) and extensive oedematous areas in the neurovascular unit. However, in EG-II, lamellar myelin, axonal structures and mitochondria were well protected. These alterations possibly indicate that saponins have an effect on the neurons either directly or by its conversion to steroidal saponins. Therefore, these findings add further evidence supporting the protective claims of TT in cerebral architecture in dietary induced hyperlipidemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cholesterol / toxicity
  • Hypercholesterolemia / pathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Myelin Sheath / drug effects
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacokinetics*
  • Rabbits
  • Tribulus / chemistry


  • Plant Extracts
  • Cholesterol