Authors: Reuven Rasooly, Miriam Rothschild, Yael Gov, Paul Wolferstan, Robert Nash, Paula Do, Naomi Balaban
Extracts of several British butterfly species were tested and shown to possess powerful bactericidal activity against gram-positive bacteria (tested on Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus anthracis). The active compounds in the grass-feeding species were identified as hydroxylated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) related to loline with nitrogen at C-1. Lolines are known insecticidal and insect-deterrent compounds that are produced in grasses infected by endophytic fungal symbionts. Lolines also increase resistance of endophyte-infected grasses to insect herbivores. The butterfly-isolated pyrrolizidine alkaloids appear to be novel and non-toxic to human cells such as HaCat human skin keratinocytes and Hep-2 human epithelial cells. The discovery of novel agents from butterflies could lead to the development of new antimicrobials.
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