Characterizing the Cytotoxic Effects and Several Antimicrobial Phytocompounds of Argemone mexicana

Faculty Sponsor

Danielle Orozco-Nunnelly


Arts and Sciences

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021


Commonly called the Mexican prickly poppy, Argemone mexicana is a stress-resistant member of the Papaveraceae family of plants that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments. This plant has reported antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, and cytotoxic effects against some human cancer cell lines. Due to its various therapeutic uses and its abundance of secondary metabolites, A. mexicana has great potential as a drug discovery candidate. Herein, the cytotoxic activities of different A. mexicana plant parts (seeds, leaves, inner vs. outer roots) from methanol or hexane extracts are characterized against cells of seven organisms. Comparing 1 mg of each sample normalized to background solvent alone, A. mexicana methanol outer root and leaf extracts possessed the strongest antimicrobial activity, with greatest effects against the Gram-positive bacteria tested, and less activity against the Gram-negative bacteria and fungi tested. Using the MTT colorimetric assay, the outer root methanol and seed hexane extracts displayed pronounced inhibitory effects against human colon cancer cells. Quantification of c-MYC and APC mRNA levels help elucidate how the A. mexicana root methanol extract possibly affects colon cancer cells. After ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance analysis of the root and leaf methanol fractions, two main antibacterial compounds, chelerythrine and berberine, were identified. The roots possessed both phytocompounds, while the leaf lacked chelerythrine. These data highlight the importance of plants as an invaluable pharmaceutical resource at a time when antimicrobial and anticancer drug discovery has plateaued.

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