Amaranthus retroflexus L., an introduced invasive weed in southern Australia, has been associated with acute renal failure and/or mortality in a number of livestock species. While its leaves, flowers and stems are generally reported to contain high levels of nitrogen, few studies have fully characterised the chemical composition of A. retroflexus foliage with respect to mammalian toxicity. We performed extensive metabolic profiling of stems, leaves, roots and inflorescence tissues of A. retroflexus collected from three spatially and/or temporally distinct toxicity outbreaks, and report on the 1) composition of primary and secondary metabolites in methanolic extracts of A. retroflexus tissues using HPLC and HPLC-MS QToF and 2) chemometric analysis of A. retroflexus extracts in relation to the associated toxin(s). All tissues of A. retroflexus possessed an abundance of N-containing metabolites, particularly quaternary ammonium compounds which were identified as betaines, two of which (valine betaine and isoleucine betaine) are rarely encountered in plants. Cytotoxicity to murine fibroblasts was highest in extracts of leaf tissue and was associated with a single, a small modified peptide with high similarity to N-acetyl-L-α-aspartyl-L-alanyl-L-α-aspartyl-L-α-glutamyl-O-(carboxymethyl)-L-tyrosyl-L-leucinamide, a synthetic phosphotyrosyl mimic involved in cell signaling processes. One possible mode of action leading to acute renal failure in grazing livestock by a modified peptide such as this is proposed.
- B.WEE 0416