Open Access

Biological screening of selected Pacific Northwest forest plants using the brine shrimp (Artemia salina) toxicity bioassay

  • Yvette M. Karchesy1,
  • Rick G. Kelsey2Email author,
  • George Constantine3 and
  • Joseph J. Karchesy1
SpringerPlus20165:510

https://doi.org/10.1186/s40064-016-2145-1

Received: 17 December 2015

Accepted: 12 April 2016

Published: 23 April 2016

Abstract

The brine shrimp (Artemia salina) bioassay was used to screen 211 methanol extracts from 128 species of Pacific Northwest plants in search of general cytotoxic activity. Strong toxicity (LC50 < 100 µg/ml) was found for 17 extracts from 13 species, with highest activity observed for Angelica arguta roots at <10 µg/ml. Notably, four species of cedar trees and one of juniper in the family Cupressaceae dominated this group with LC50 for heartwood extracts ranging from 15 to 89 µg/ml. Moderate toxicity (LC50 100–500 µg/ml) was found in 38 extracts from 27 species, while weak toxicity (LC50 500–1000 µg/ml) was detected for 17 extracts in 16 species. There were 139 extracts from 99 species that were non-toxic (LC50 > 1000 µg/ml). Our subsequent studies of conifer heartwoods with strong activity confirm the assay’s value for identifying new investigational leads for materials with insecticidal and fungicidal activity.

Keywords

Brine shrimp lethality Artemia salina Methanol extractsBioactivity

Background

The forests and rangelands of Washington and Oregon are diverse ecosystems ranging from the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington to the semiarid shrub-steppe of southeastern Oregon (Franklin and Dyrness 1988). Across this region, fir, pine and cedar species are basic foundations to industries producing lumber and structural wood products. Native Americans have long used many forest plants for foods, medicines and handmade materials to improve daily life (Gunther 1973; Forlines et al. 1992). There remains an interest in the herbal remedies (Moore 1993), and many of the plants still have potential for development of new, natural sources of medicines and insecticides.

The brine shrimp toxicity bioassay is a simple method of screening crude plant extracts for cytotoxicity (Meyer et al. 1982; McLaughlin et al. 1991) and is an indicator of potential antitumor, insecticidal, and fungicidal activity (Michael et al. 1956; Harwig and Scott 1971; McLaughlin et al. 1998). The mode of action causing toxicity is unknown, but the results typically correlate with more specific bioactivity tests. The brine shrimp bioassay has also been used to guide the isolation of bioactive compounds, testing of water quality, and detection of fungal toxins (Nguta et al. 2011; Arcanjo et al. 2012; Gadir 2012). This method is an attractive pre-screen for such activities as it is relatively simple and inexpensive to test large numbers of crude plant extracts in a relatively short time. Most surveys of this type have been carried out on traditional medicinal plants of various cultures from around the world (Pimentel et al. 2002; Krishnarajua et al. 2005; Rahman et al. 2008; Moshi et al. 2010; Ved et al. 2010; Bussmann et al. 2011; Nguta et al. 2011; Oryema et al. 2011; Arcanjo et al. 2012; Gadir 2012; Nguta et al. 2012; Biradi and Hullatti 2014; Khatun et al. 2014). A few studies have targeted forest and savannah plants (Horgen et al. 2001; Adouom 2009; Rizwana et al. 2010; Soonthornchareonnon et al. 2012; Ravikumar et al. 2014).

In this paper we report survey results for some forest plants from the Pacific Northwest to gain a preliminary understanding of which ones may merit further, more specific testing with potential for developing new medicines and pesticides to benefit future generations.

Methods

Plant materials

Plants were collected during their active growing seasons in western Washington, western and central Oregon. Voucher specimens were deposited at the Oregon State University Herbarium.

Preparation of extracts

Plant materials were air-dried, ground and then extracted at room temperature for 48 h with methanol. The methanol was analytical grade and freshly distilled prior to use. Extracts were evaporated under vacuum on a rotary evaporator and the residue briefly freeze dried under high vacuum to remove traces of solvent and water, then stored at −20 °C until tested.

Brine shrimp toxicity bioassay

Bioassays of the crude extracts were carried out as described by Meyer et al. (1982) and McLaughlin et al. (1991) on freshly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia salina Leach). Triplicate samples of each extract were tested initially at concentrations of 10, 100 and 1000 ppm (µg/mL) in vials containing 5 mL of brine solution and 10 shrimp. Survivors were counted after 24 h and the median lethal concentration (LC50) with 95 % confidence intervals calculated using Probit Analysis.

Results

Results of the brine shrimp cytotoxicity screening are shown in Table 1. Extracts with LC50 values >1000 µg/ml are considered non-toxic (Meyer et al. 1982). Values between 500 and 1000 µg/ml are considered weakly toxic, those between 100 and 500 µg/ml as moderately toxic, and those <100 µg/ml as strongly toxic (Nguta et al. 2012). A total of 211 crude methanol extracts from 128 species, 116 genera, and 49 families are represented. Strong cytotoxic activity was found in 17 extracts from 13 species (Table 2), moderate toxicity in 38 extracts from 27 species, weak activity for 17 extracts in 16 species, and 139 non-toxic extracts from 99 species. The proportions of all extracts by activity category are shown in Fig. 1.
Table 1

Brine shrimp toxicity at 24 h exposure to plant extracts

Plant family and species

Common name

Part used

LC50 (µg/ml)

95 % CI

Aceraceae

    

 Acer circinatum

Vine maple

Bark

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 

 Acer macrophyllum

Big leaf maple

Bark

>1000

 
  

Catkins

>1000

 

Adoxaceae

    

 Sambucus nigra subsp. caerulea

Blue elderberry

Bark

>1000

 
 

Berries

>1000

 

 Sambucus racemosa

Red elderberry

Bark

>1000

 

 Viburnum ellipticum

Oregon viburnum

Leaves

>1000

 

Amaranthaceae

    

 Amaranthus retroflexus

Pigweed

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Apocynaceae

    

 Apocynum androsaemifolium

Spreading dogbane

Aerial parts

88

55–141

Araceae

    

 Lysichiton americanus

Skunk cabbage

Flowers

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 
  

Roots

>1000

 

Araliaceae

    

 Oplopanax horridum

Devil’s club

Berries-green

338

292–573

  

Berries-red

239

187–279

  

Leaves

>1000

 
  

Petioles

237

153–372

  

Root bark

21

13–32

  

Stem bark

35

23–51

Aristolochiaceae

    

 Asarum caudatum

Wild ginger

Aerial parts

565

364–918

Aquifoliaceae

    

 Ilex aquifolium

Holly

Leaves

>1000

 

Berberidaceae

    

 Berberis aquifolium

Tall Oregon grape

Berries green

305

245–352

Berry stems

>1000

 

Flower heads

608

404–4630

 Berberis nervosa

Cascade Oregon grape

Leaves

>1000

 

Roots

>1000

 

 Berberis repens

Low Oregon grape

Leaves

>1000

 

Betulaceae

    

 Alnus rubra

Red alder

Bark

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 

 Corylus cornuta

Hazelnut

Bark

>1000

 

Boraginaceae

    

 Mertensia paniculata

Tall bluebell

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Myosotis laxa

Small flowered forget-me-not

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Symphytum officinale

Comfrey

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Caprifoliaceae

    

 Lonicera involucrata

Black twin-berry

Leaves

>1000

 

Bark

>1000

 

 Symphoricarpos albus

Snowberry

Berries

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 

Chenopodiaceae

    

 Sarcocornia perennis

Pickleweed

Leaves

>1000

 

Compositae (Asteraceae)

    

 Achillea millefolium

Yarrow

Aerial parts

565

364–918

  

Leaves only

300

216–402

  

Seeds

>1000

 

 Ambrosia chamissonis

Silver burweed

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Anaphalis margaritacea

Pearly everlasting

Aerial parts

808

403–2800

 Antennaria geyeri

Pussy toes (Geyer)

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Anthemis cotula

Dog fennel

Aerial parts

246

182–320

  

Roots

>1000

 

 Bellis perennis

Bellis (English daisy)

Aerial parts

454

282–760

 Centaurea xmoncktonii

Meadow

Aerial parts

277

203–355

 

knapweed

Roots

109

96–152

 Centaurea solstitialis

Yellow star-

Aerial parts

>1000

 
 

thistle

Roots

693

423–1349

 Centaurea stoebe subsp. micranthos

Spotted knapweed

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Roots

87

56–135

 Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Rabbit brush (Green)

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Cichorium intybus

Chicory

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Cirsium vulgare

Bull thistle

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Conyza canadensis

Horseweed

Aerial parts

159

96–267

 Ericameria nauseosa

Rabbit brush (Gray)

Aerial parts

579

360–1006

 Eriophyllum lanatum

Woolly sunshine

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Grindelia integrifolia

Gumweed

Aerial parts

173

107–276

  

Roots

99

75–116

 Hypochaeris glabra

Cat’s ear

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Lapsana communis

Nipplewort

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Leucanthemum vulgare

Oxeye daisy

Aerial parts

16

10–25

  

Roots

164

139–183

 Madia sativa

Tarweed

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Matricaria discoidea

Pineapple weed

Aerial parts

192

160–208

 Senecio jacobaea

Tansy ragwort

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Solidago canadensis

Canada goldenrod

Aerial parts

827

458–2214

 Sonchus asper

Prickly sow

Leaves

>1000

 
 

thistle

Roots

>1000

 

 Symphyotrichum subspicatum

Douglas aster

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Tanacetum vulgare

Common tansy

Aerial parts

62

39–93

 Tragopogon porrifolius

Salsify

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Convolvulaceae

    

 Convolvulus arvensis

Orchard morning glory

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Cornaceae

    

 Cornus nuttallii

Dogwood

Bark

>1000

 

Cupressaceae

    

 Callitropsis nootkatensis

Yellow-cedar

Foliage

42

27–65

  

Heartwood

89

53–114

  

Outer Bark

693

423–1349

  

Inner Bark

15

8–24

  

Sapwood

>1000

 

 Calocedrus decurrens

Incense cedar

Heartwood

55

35–80

  

Sapwood

>1000

 

 Cedrus deodara 1

Deodar cedar

Heartwood

15

9–24

  

Sapwood

36

30–39

 Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Port Orford cedar

Heartwood

31

23–39

 ×Hesperotropsis leylandii

Leyland cypress

Heartwood

118

81–161

  

Sapwood

>1000

 

 Juniperus occidentalis

Juniper

Berries

>1000

 
 

(Western)

Leaves

>1000

 
 

Heartwood

66

56–77

 

Inner Bark

>1000

 
 

Outer Bark

>1000

 
 

Sapwood

189

116–338

Elaeagnaceae

    

 Shepherdia canadensis

Soapberry

Berries

387

255–571

  

Leaves

>1000

 
  

Leaves with twigs

>1000

 
  

Outer Bark

314

174–662

Ericaceae

    

 Arbutus menziesii

Pacific madrone

Inner Bark

>1000

 
  

Red berries

>1000

 

 Arctostaphylos columbiana

Hairy manzanita

Bark

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 

 Arctostaphylos patula

Green leaf manzanita

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick

Berries-red Leaves/stems

>1000

 

>1000

 

 Chimaphila umbellata

Prince’s pine

Aerial parts

155

131–177

  

Stems

126

86–170

 Gaultheria shallon

Salal

Leaves

>1000

 

 Rhododendron macrophyllum

Pacific rhododendron

Bark

>1000

 

Leaves

>1000

 

Fagaceae

    

 Quercus garryana

White oak

Galls

>1000

 
  

Heartwood

301

195–468

  

Inner Bark

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 

Fumariaceae

    

 Dicentra formosa

Wild bleeding heart

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Geraniaceae

    

 Geranium dissectum

Cut-leaf geranium

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Iridaceae

    

 Iris tenax

Oregon iris

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Labiatae

    

 Prunella vulgaris

Heal all; Self-heal

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Stachys cooleyae

Cooley’s hedge nettle (False stinging nettle)

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Lauraceae

    

 Umbellularia californica

Oregon myrtle

Heartwood

363

255–488

  

Sapwood

>1000

 

Leguminosae

    

 Cytisus scoparius

Scotch broom

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Dalea ornata

Prairie clover

Aerial parts

157

95–257

  

Roots

313

121–1632

 Robinia pseudoacacia

Black locust

Heartwood

>1000

 

 Trifolium pratense

Red clover

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Liliaceae

    

 Camassia quamash

Camas

Aerial parts

212

150–952

  

Flowers

272

148–583

  

Leaves

446

256–905

 Prosartes smithii

Smith’s fairy bell

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Malvaceae

    

 Malva neglecta

Dwarf mallow

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Nyctaginaceae

    

 Abronia latifolia

Yellow sandverbena

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Onagraceae

    

 Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Oxalidaceae

    

 Oxalis oregana

Oxalis

Aerial parts

281

268–298

Pinaceae

    

 Abies grandis

Grand-fir

Needles (new)

>1000

 
  

Needles (old)

>1000

 

 Picea sitchensis

Sitka spruce

Needles

>1000

 

 Pinus monticola

Western white

Bark

>1000

 
 

pine

Needles

504

397–662

 Pinus ponderosa

Ponderosa pine

Bark

>1000

 
  

Heartwood

107

69–166

  

Needles

>1000

 
  

Sapwood

>1000

 

 Pseudotsuga menziesii

Douglas-fir

Cones-green

>1000

 
  

Heartwood

663

422–1153

  

Needles

>1000

 
  

Outer bark

>1000

 
  

Sapwood

>1000

 

 Tsuga heterophylla

Western

Cones-green

>1000

 
 

hemlock

Needles

>1000

 
  

Sapwood

>1000

 

Plantaginaceae

    

 Plantago spp.

Plantain

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Polygonaceae

    

 Rumex spp.

Dock

Roots

923

822–1537

Polypodiaceae

    

 Polypodium glycyrrhiza

Licorice fern

Roots

>1000

 

 Polystichum munitum

Sword fern

Leaves

>1000

 
  

Roots

>1000

 

 Pteridium aquilinum

Bracken fern

Roots

>1000

 

Portulacaceae

    

 Claytonia sibirica

Siberian miners’ lettuce

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Primulaceae

    

 Trientalis latifolia

Western starflower

Aerial parts

539

430–627

Ranunculaceae

    

 Clematis vitalba

Clematis

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Delphinium trolliifolium

Delphinium

Aerial parts

304

190–489

 Ranunculus occidentalis

Western buttercup

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Ranunculus repens

Creeping buttercup

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Rhamnaceae

    

 Rhamnus purshiana

Cascara

Bark

393

237–698

  

Leaves

247

186–667

Rosaceae

    

 Aruncus dioicus

Goat’s beard

Flowers

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 
  

Roots

>1000

 

 Crataegus douglasii

Black hawthorn

Berries-green

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 

 Holodiscus discolor

Ocean spray

Bark

>1000

 
  

Flowers

>1000

 
  

Leaves

>1000

 

 Malus fusca

Crabapple

Bark

>1000

 

 Oemleria cerasiformis

Indian-plum

Bark

>1000

 

Stems + leaves + berries

>1000

 Potentilla pacifica

Pacific silverweed

Leaves

632

298–2309

 Prunus spp.

Cherry

Leaves

>1000

 

Inner Bark

>1000

 

Outer Bark

490

354–614

 Purshia tridentata

Bitter-brush

Leaves

870

533–1857

Roots

691

545–884

Seeds

144

101–192

 Rosa nutkana

Nootka rose

Leaves

>1000

 

Stems

>1000

 Rubus parviflorus

Thimbleberry

Leaves

>1000

 

 Rubus spectabilis

Salmonberry

Bark

>1000

 

Leaves

>1000

 Rubus ursinus

Blackberry (trailing)

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Sorbus scopulina

Mountain ash

Berries

318

308–328

Leaves

>1000

 

 Spiraea douglasii

Spirea

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Rubiaceae

    

 Galium aparine

Cleavers

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Salicaceae

    

 Populus spp.

Cottonwood

Outer Bark

>1000

 

Saxifragaceae

    

 Tellima grandiflora

Fringecup

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Scrophulariaceae

    

 Digitalis purpurea

Foxglove

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Verbascum thapsus

Common mullein

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Roots

>1000

 

Solanaceae

    

 Solanum nigrum

Black nightshade

Aerial parts

662

422–1153

Taxaceae

    

 Taxus brevifolia

Pacific yew

Heartwood

>1000

 

Taxodiaceae

    

 Sequoiadendron giganteum

Giant sequoia

Needles

713

580–878

Heartwood

206

166–246

Umbelliferae

    

 Angelica arguta

Sharptooth angelica

Aerial parts

123

94–371

Roots

<10

2

 Daucus carota

Queen Anne’s lace

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel

Aerial parts

>1000

 

 Heracleum maximum

Cow parsnip

Roots

249

167–384

Umbels

404

307–496

 Oenanthe sarmentosa

Pacific water parsley

Aerial parts

76

48–117

Urticaceae

    

 Urtica dioica

Stinging nettle

Aerial parts

>1000

 

Roots

>1000

 

1Endemic to the Indian subcontinent, collected from a tree farm in Oregon

210 µg/ml was the lowest concentration tested with mean mortality at 90 %

Table 2

Plant species and tissues with strong, <100 µg/ml LC50, brine shrimp toxicity at 24 h exposure to plant extracts

Species

Part used

LC50 (µg/ml)

95 % CI

Apocynum androsaemifolium

Aerial parts

88

55–141

Oplopanax horridum

Root bark

21

13–32

 

Stem bark

35

23–51

Centaurea stoebe subsp.

Roots

87

56–135

micranthos

   

Grindelia integrifolia

Roots

99

75–116

Leucanthemum vulgare

Aerial parts

16

10–25

Tanacetum vulgare

Aerial parts

62

39–93

Callitropsis nootkatensis

Foliage

42

27–65

 

Heartwood

89

53–114

 

Inner bark

15

8–24

Calocedrus decurrens

Heartwood

55

35–80

Cedrus deodara 1

Heartwood

15

9–24

 

Sapwood

36

30–39

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Heartwood

31

23–39

Juniperus occidentalis

Heartwood

66

56–77

Angelica arguta

Roots

<10

2

Oenanthe sarmentosa

Aerial parts

76

48–117

1Endemic to the Indian subcontinent, collected from a tree farm in Oregon

210 µg/ml was the lowest concentration tested with mean mortality at 90 %

Fig. 1

The percentage of extracts within the four categories of cytotoxic activity

Discussion

There were more than twice as many extracts with moderate activity than there were with strong activity. Moderately active extracts need not be dismissed as unimportant, since Bussmann et al. (2011), Nguta et al. (2012) and others have noted that toxicity can vary significantly due to harvest time, collection location, plant organ or tissue, and solvent used for extraction. Alcohol or organic solvent extracts are often more toxic than aqueous ones, but not always. Extracts from genera and species with the strongest bioactivity can also exhibit a wide range in their levels of activity for the same reasons, thus varying among experiments and research groups. Given this natural variability and our extensive list of genera and species we decided not to attempt cross comparing levels of activity with those observed by others, as it is beyond the scope of this report.

Tissues identified with LC50 < 100 µg/ml cytotoxicity have served us as leads for further studies of bioactive extracts and compounds from heartwoods of yellow, incense, and Port-Orford cedars, and western juniper against mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti), ticks (Ixodes scapularis), fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) or microbes influencing animal and forest health (Johnston et al. 2001; Panella et al. 2005; Dietrich et al. 2006; Manter et al. 2006, 2007; Dolan et al. 2007, 2009). It is worthwhile noting that three of the compounds in yellow or incense cedar heartwoods have different modes of action than other commercially available mosquito adulticides currently in use (McAllister and Adams 2010). New modes of action are particularly relevant in the search for compounds to overcome resistance to existing pesticides.

Conclusion

Natural products from Pacific Northwest forest resources can offer alternative biocides and repellent compounds with activities comparable to synthetic pesticides for control of arthropods of public health concern and forest microbial pathogens. Other bioactive extracts from our brine shrimp screening need to be investigated further. In addition, other forest plants from this region need to be pre-screened by this method as well to provide a more complete understanding of the potential value for all our forest and rangeland resources.

Declarations

Authors’ contributions

YMK collected plant material, prepared extracts, conducted the bioassays and processed the data. RGK collected some plants, prepared some extracts and co-wrote the manuscript. GC assisted with the bioassays. JJK conceived the study, collected some of the plants, and co-wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Richard Halse, Oregon State University Herbarium, for assistance with plant identification.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Wood Science and Engineering, Oregon State University
(2)
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
(3)
College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University

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