Mode of action of the sesquiterpene lactones eupatoriopicrin and estafietin on Trypanosoma cruzi

Phytomedicine. 2022 Feb;96:153900. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2021.153900. Epub 2021 Dec 30.


Background: The sesquiterpene lactones (STLs) eupatoriopicrin (EP) and estafietin (ES), isolated from Stevia alpina Griseb. (Asteraceae) and Stevia maimarensis (Hieron.) Cabrera (Asteraceae) respectively, have previously showed promising trypanocidal activity, both in vitro and in vivo.

Purpose: In this work, using biochemical studies and electron microscopy, we aimed at characterizing the mode of action of both STLs on Trypanosoma cruzi.

Methods: The interaction of STLs with hemin was examined by measuring modifications in the Soret absorption band of hemin; the thiol groups interaction was determined spectrophotometrically through its reaction with 5,5'-dithiobis-2-nitrobenzoate; the effect on cruzipain activity was also assayed by spectrophotometry. The synthesis of sterols were qualitatively and quantitatively tested by TLC. Mitochondrial functionality was assessed by measuring mitochondrial membrane potential and the activity of NADH-cytochrome c reductase and succinate-cytochrome c reductase enzymes. The status of the antioxidant system was assessed by quantifying the level of free thiols by spectrophotometry, together with the intracellular oxidative state by flow cytometry. Ultrastructural changes were analyzed by transmission electron microscopy.

Results: EP and ES were found to impair the functionality and the redox status of the parasite. ES produced a greater decrease in the activity of succinate dehydrogenase than eupatoriopicrin, affecting the functioning of the respiratory chain and the Krebs cycle. EP increased the formation of triglycerides leading to the presence of cytoplasmic lipid droplets. By electron microscopy, alterations in the kinetoplast and the appearance of large translucent vacuoles in the cytoplasm were observed for both compounds.

Conclusions: Both sesquiterpenelactones proved to act additively on T. cruzi, supporting the hypothesis that each compound would be acting on different primary targets.. The treatment combining eupatoriopicrin and estafietin could be considered a promising alternative for the treatment of Chagas' disease.

Keywords: Antiparasitic activy; Chagas’ disease; Sesquiterpenelactones; Trypanocidal activity; Trypanosoma cruzi.