Cell Biology and Toxicology

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 285–293 | Cite as

Human kidney proximal tubule cells are vulnerable to the effects of Rauwolfia serpentina

  • Miriam E. MossobaEmail author
  • Thomas J. Flynn
  • Sanah Vohra
  • Paddy L. Wiesenfeld
  • Robert L. Sprando
Original Article


Rauwolfia serpentina (or Snake root plant) is a botanical dietary supplement marketed in the USA for maintaining blood pressure. Very few studies have addressed the safety of this herb, despite its wide availability to consumers. Its reported pleiotropic effects underscore the necessity for evaluating its safety. We used a human kidney cell line to investigate the possible negative effects of R. serpentina on the renal system in vitro, with a specific focus on the renal proximal tubules. We evaluated cellular and mitochondrial toxicity, along with a variety of other kidney-specific toxicology biomarkers. We found that R. serpentina was capable of producing highly detrimental effects in our in vitro renal cell system. These results suggest more studies are needed to investigate the safety of this dietary supplement in both kidney and other target organ systems.


Kidney proximal tubule Rauwolfia serpentina Nephrotoxicity HK-2 



Reactive oxygen species


Mitochondrial membrane potential


Kidney injury molecule-1





We thank Dr. Vijayasankar Raman and Dr. Ikhlas Khan at the University of Mississippi NCNPR for their contributions in authenticating and providing R. serpentina material.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miriam E. Mossoba
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thomas J. Flynn
    • 1
  • Sanah Vohra
    • 1
  • Paddy L. Wiesenfeld
    • 1
  • Robert L. Sprando
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Office of Applied Research and Safety Assessment (OARSA), Division of Toxicology (DOT), Neurotoxicology and in vitro Toxicology Branch (NIVTB)U.S. Food and Drug Administration (US FDA)LaurelUSA
  2. 2.MOD-1 LaboratoriesUS FDALaurelUSA

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