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J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Jul 23;56(14):5662-72. doi: 10.1021/jf800568u. Epub 2008 Jun 14.

Hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in pollen and drying-related implications for commercial processing of bee pollen.

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  • 1CSIRO Livestock Industries, Plant Toxins Research Group, Private Bag 24, Geelong, Victoria 3220, Australia.


Using HPLC-ESI-MS, several saturated and 1,2-dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloids were detected, mainly as their N-oxides, in fresh pollen collected from flowers of the pyrrolizidine alkaloid-producing plants Echium vulgare, E. plantagineum, Senecio jacobaea, S. ovatus, and Eupatorium cannabinum, and/or pollen loads from bees (bee pollen) that foraged on those plants. A major alkaloidal metabolite in S. ovatus was tentatively identified, using its mass spectrometric data and biogenic considerations, as the previously unreported, saturated alkaloid, 2-hydroxysarracine. Heating had very little effect on the 1,2-dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloids and their N-oxides from a variety of sources. Considered in conjunction with international concerns about the adverse effects of these alkaloids, the results strongly indicate a need for monitoring pollen supplies intended for human consumption, at least until conditions for processing and/or selection are clearly defined such as to significantly reduce the hepatotoxic (and potentially carcinogenic and genotoxic) pyrrolizidine alkaloid content of bee pollen.

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