Antileishmanial activity and cytotoxicity of Brazilian plants

Tatiana G. Ribeiro, Miguel A. Chávez-Fumagalli, Diogo G. Valadares, Juçara R. Franca, Paula S. Lage, Mariana C. Duarte, Pedro H.R. Andrade, Vivian T. Martins, Lourena E. Costa, Ana L.A. Arruda, André A.G. Faraco, Eduardo A.F. Coelho, Rachel O. Castilho

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48 Scopus citations


Leishmaniasis is a major public health problem, and the alarming spread of parasite resistance has increased the importance of discovering new therapeutic products. The present study aimed to investigate the in vitro leishmanicidal activity from 16 different Brazilian medicinal plants. Stationary-phase promastigotes of Leishmania amazonensis and murine macrophages were exposed to 44 plant extracts or fractions for 48h at 37°C, in order to evaluate their antileishmanial activity and cytotoxicity, respectively. The most potent extracts against L. amazonensis were the hexanic extract of Dipteryx alata (IC50 of 0.08μg/mL), the hexanic extract of Syzygium cumini (IC50 of 31.64μg/mL), the ethanolic and hexanic extracts of leaves of Hymenaea courbaril (IC50 of 44.10μg/mL and 35.84μg/mL, respectively), the ethanolic extract of H. stignocarpa (IC50 of 4.69μg/mL), the ethanolic extract of Jacaranda caroba (IC50 of 13.22μg/mL), and the ethanolic extract of J. cuspidifolia leaves (IC50 of 10.96μg/mL). Extracts of D. alata and J. cuspidifolia presented higher selectivity index, with high leishmanicidal activity and low cytotoxicity in the mammalian cells. The capacity in treated infected macrophages using the extracts and/or fractions of D. alata and J. cuspidifolia was also analyzed, and reductions of 95.80%, 98.31%, and 97.16%, respectively, in the parasite burden, were observed. No nitric oxide (NO) production could be observed in the treated macrophages, after stimulation with the extracts and/or fractions of D. alata and J. cuspidifolia, suggesting that the biological activity could be due to mechanisms other than macrophage activation mediated by NO production. Based on phytochemistry studies, the classes of compounds that could contribute to the observed activities are also discussed. In conclusion, the data presented in this study indicated that traditional medicinal plant extracts present effective antileishmanial activity. Future studies could focus on the identification and purification of the antileishmanial compounds within these plants for analysis of their in vivo antileishmanial activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-68
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Parasitology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Amastigotes
  • Dipteryx alata
  • Jacaranda cuspidifolia
  • Leishmania amazonensis
  • Murine macrophage
  • Promastigotes


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