Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a bioactive forage rich in sesquiterpene lactones (SLs) with reported in vitro and in vivo anthelmintic activity in livestock. However, the on-farm adoption of chicory as an anthelmintic crop is limited and may be facilitated by using standardised industrial chicory material. Chicory root pulp is a by-product obtained from industrial chicory roots after inulin extraction and can potentially retain SLs. However, SL content and associated anthelmintic activity of chicory root pulp have not been investigated. Here, we evaluated the anthelmintic activity of SL-enriched extracts from chicory root pulp and forage chicory, and used untargeted metabolomics and molecular networking to identify potential anthelmintic molecules. Six different sources of chicory material were used: fresh chicory root pulp (from industrial chicory roots C. intybus var. sativum; "Root Pulp"), fresh leaves from chicory cv. Spadona (sampled on four occasions) and fresh leaves from chicory cv. Choice. The resulting extracts were tested for anthelmintic activity against the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the pig nematode Ascaris suum. The cytotoxicity of the chicory extracts was evaluated on mammalian (Vero) cells. In the C. elegans assays, the Root Pulp was the most potent extract and induced paralysis in >95% of worms exposed to >250 μg extract/mL (EC50 = 64.2 μg/mL). In the A. suum assays, the Root Pulp was also the most potent chicory extract to inhibit worm motility (EC50 = 87.6 μg/mL), followed closely by two of the Spadona leaf extracts (EC50 = 89.8 μg/mL and 112.2 μg/mL) The Root Pulp extract had the lowest cytotoxicity of all tested extracts towards mammalian cells, with a selectivity index of 5.37. Untargeted metabolomics revealed that chicory Root Pulp had a markedly different chemical profile in comparison with forage chicory extracts. Molecular networking confirmed several SLs and SL-derivatives mainly present in chicory root pulp, that may be responsible of its potent anti-parasitic activity. Bioactivity-based molecular networking of chicory root pulp and the most potent forage chicory extracts revealed a high predicted anthelmintic score for the guaianolide SL 11,13-dihydro-lactucopicrin. In conclusion, chicory root pulp showed potent and selective in vitro anthelmintic activity against C. elegans and A. suum, with low cytotoxicity in mammalian cells. The promising anthelmintic activity of chicory root pulp should be confirmed in vivo to further explore the potential of this agro-industrial by-product as a nutraceutical anthelmintic for livestock and as novel source of anti-parasitic compounds.
Keywords: Anthelmintic; Ascaris suum; Caenorhabditis elegans; Cichorium intybus; In vitro assays; Metabolomics; Pig; Sesquiterpene lactones.
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