Anti-Trypanosoma cruzi activity of Pterodon pubescens seed oil: geranylgeraniol as the major bioactive component
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In the search for new therapeutic agents for Chagas’ disease, we screened extracts obtained from the Brazilian plant Pterodon pubescens found commercially in the medicinal flora market. We investigated the potential trypanocidal effect of the oleaginous ethanolic extract of P. pubescens seeds and its fractions (PF1, PF1.1, PF1.2, and PF1.3) and of geranylgeraniol (GG-OH), the sole component of the hexane fraction (PF1.2). In experiments with bloodstream trypomastigotes of Trypanosoma cruzi, performed at 37°C in culture medium, PF1.2 and GG-OH showed similar potency, while the oleaginous extract from P. pubescens seeds and the other fractions were about three times less active. GG-OH inhibited the proliferation of intracellular amastigotes, at concentrations which do not affect the mammalian host cell. Transmission electron microscopy and flow cytometry analysis indicate the mitochondrion, an organelle that plays a central role in apoptosis, of both epimastigotes and of trypomastigotes as the major target of GG-OH. On the other hand, the ultrastructural images of the endoplasmic reticulum profiles, myelin-like figures, and concentric membranous arrangements inside damaged mitochondrion are suggestive of an autophagic pathway leading to parasite death. Because the different forms of cell death share some morphological features such as mitochondrial collapse, further studies are needed to disclose the trypanocidal action of GG-OH.