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Aust Vet J. 1992 Jul;69(7):163-5.

Locomotor effects in sheep of alkaloids identified in Australian Tribulus terrestris.

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  • 1NSW Agriculture, Agricultural Research and Veterinary Centre, Orange.


Fresh, mature, ungrazed Tribulus terrestris plant material was subjected to a standard alkaloid extraction procedure. The extract was fractionated by thin layer chromatography (TLC) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Two major alkaloid fractions were demonstrated. These fractions were identified by means of TLC, ultraviolet spectrofluorimetry (UVS) and HPLC, as the beta-carboline indoleamines harmane and norharmane. The extractable alkaloid content was determined to be 44 mg/kg dry matter. Synthetic harmane and norharmane were administered subcutaneously to sheep at a dose rate of 54 mg/kg. Both compounds caused similar nervous effects. The main effect observed was limb paresis, which in some sheep was body side blased. The clinical signs observed in the experimental sheep were consistent with those described for naturally occurring cases of Tribulus terrestris staggers. It was proposed that harmane and norharmane accumulate in tryptamine-associated neurones of the central nervous system, during months of tribulus ingestion, and gradually interact irreversibly with a specific neuronal gene DNA sequence.

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