The protective effect of safranal against intestinal tissue damage in Drosophila

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2022 Mar 15:439:115939. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2022.115939. Epub 2022 Feb 23.


Drosophila is often exposed to harmful environments, and the intestinal epithelium is the first line of defense against external infection. Intestinal stem cells (ISCs) in the Drosophila midgut play a crucial role in maintaining tissue homeostasis and compensating for cell loss caused by tissue damage. Crocus sativus L. (saffron) can protect against intestinal injury in response to inflammation; however, the specific protective components of saffron and the related mechanisms remain unclear. Safranal is one of the main components of saffron. Here, we used dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) or Erwinia carotovora carotovora 15 (Ecc15) to create an intestinal injury model and explored the protective effect of safranal against tissue damage. Excessive proliferation and differentiation of ISCs in the Drosophila midgut were observed after DSS or Ecc15 feeding; however, these phenotypes were rescued after safranal feeding. In addition, we found that this process occurred through inhibition of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and Janus kinase (JAK)/signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) pathways. Furthermore, safranal inhibited the Ecc15- and DSS-induced increases in antimicrobial peptide (AMP) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and intestinal epithelial cell death, thereby protecting gut integrity. In summary, safranal was found to have a significant protective effect and maintain intestinal homeostasis in Drosophila; these findings provide a foundation for the application of safranal in clinical research and the treatment of intestinal injury.

Keywords: Damage; Drosophila; Intestinal stem cells; Safranal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclohexenes* / pharmacology
  • Drosophila* / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Cyclohexenes
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Terpenes
  • safranal