Rhamnus cathartica (Buckthorn) hepatocellular toxicity in mice*

Carol A. Lichtensteiger, Nancy A. Johnston, Val R. Beasley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The toxicity of the plant Rhamnus cathartica was assessed in mice after the plant was identified as a potential cause of an idiopathic neurologic disease in horses. Another member of the Rhamnaceae family, Karwinskia humboldtiana, is neurotoxic to mammals and birds and can induce hepatic degeneration and necrosis. To investigate the toxicity of R. cathartica, a 34-day feeding trial in mice was conducted using a complete rodent diet with 0, 5, or 25% added R. cathartica. No clinical signs or gross lesions were seen, and all major tissues were histologically normal except the liver. The livers of mice fed R. cathartica had marked hepatocellular swelling. Results from periodic acid-Schiff reaction staining and from electron microscopy confirmed that the swelling was due to deposits of monoparticulate glycogen (β particles) in the cytoplasm. Glycogen deposition is an uncommon toxic change in cells. Apparently, compound(s) in R. cathartica directly or indirectly interfered with glycogen metabolism (either glycogenesis or glycogenolysis). Mechanistic and chronicity studies with R. cathartica are needed to investigate the pathophysiology of the glycogen disturbance and to determine if hepatic injury progresses and if other organs will be injured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-452
Number of pages4
JournalToxicologic Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Rhamnus cathartica (Buckthorn) hepatocellular toxicity in mice*'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this