Extracts Prepared from a Canadian Toxic Plant Induce Light-Dependent Perinuclear Vacuoles in Human Cells

Toxins (Basel). 2021 Feb 12;13(2):138. doi: 10.3390/toxins13020138.


We are investigating plant species from the Canadian prairie ecological zone by phenotypic cell assays to discover toxins of biological interest. We provide the first report of the effects of extracts prepared from the shrub Symphoricarpos occidentalis in several human cell lines. S. occidentalis (Caprifoliaceae) extracts are cytotoxic, and, strikingly, treated cells undergo light-dependent vacuolation near the nucleus. The range of irradiation is present in standard ambient light and lies in the visible range (400-700 nm). Vacuolization in treated cells can be induced with specific wavelengths of 408 or 660 nm at 1 J/cm2 energies. Vacuolated cells show a striking phenotype of a large perinuclear vacuole (nuclear associated vacuole, NAV) that is distinct from vesicles observed by treatment with an autophagy-inducing agent. Treatment with S. occidentalis extracts and light induces an intense lamin A/C signal at the junction of a nuclear vacuole and the nucleus. Further study of S. occidentalis extracts and vacuolation provide chemical tools that may contribute to the understanding of nuclear envelope organization and human cell biology.

Keywords: Canada; Caprifoliaceae; Pelger-Huët Anomaly; Symphoricarpos occidentalis; laminopathies; lamins A/C; nuclear associated vacuole (NAV), nucleus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Cell Nucleus / drug effects*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology
  • Cell Nucleus / radiation effects
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lamin Type A / metabolism
  • Light
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity*
  • Plants, Toxic / toxicity*
  • Symphoricarpos / toxicity*
  • Toxins, Biological / isolation & purification
  • Toxins, Biological / toxicity*
  • Vacuoles / drug effects*
  • Vacuoles / metabolism
  • Vacuoles / pathology
  • Vacuoles / radiation effects


  • LMNA protein, human
  • Lamin Type A
  • Plant Extracts
  • Toxins, Biological