Toxicity of plant extracts containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids using alternative invertebrate models

Mol Med Rep. 2018 Jun;17(6):7757-7763. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2018.8795. Epub 2018 Mar 26.


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are a widespread class of hepatotoxic heterocyclic organic compounds found in approximately 3% of world flora. Some PAs have been shown to have genotoxic and carcinogenic effects. The present study focuses on the toxicity effects of four dry extracts obtained from medicinal plants (Senecio vernalis, Symphytum officinale, Petasites hybridus and Tussilago farfara), on two aquatic organisms, Artemia salina and Daphnia magna, and the correlation with their PAs content. A new GC‑MS method, using a retention time (TR)‑5MS type capillary column was developed. PAs Kovats retention indices, for this type of column were computed for the first time. The lethal dose 50% (LC50) values for the two invertebrate models were correlated (Pearson 's coefficient, >0.9) and the toxicity was PA concentration-dependent, for three of the four extracts. All tested extracts were found to be toxic in both aquatic organism models. The results can be used to develop a GC‑MS validated method for the assay of PAs in medicinal plants with a further potential application in the risk assessment study of PAs toxicity in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Invertebrates / drug effects*
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry
  • Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Plant Extracts
  • Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids