Improving the antiprotozoal effect of saponins in the rumen by combination with glycosidase inhibiting iminosugars or by modification of their chemical structure

Eva Ramos-Morales*, Gabriel de la Fuente, Robert J Nash, Radek Braganca, Stephane Duval, Marc E Bouillon, Martina Lahmann, CJ Newbold

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


The antiprotozoal effect of saponins is transitory, as when saponins are deglycosylated to sapogenins by rumen microorganisms they become inactive. We hypothesised that the combination of saponins with glycosidase-inhibiting iminosugars might potentially increase the effectiveness of saponins over time by preventing their deglycosylation in the rumen. Alternatively, modifying the structure of the saponins by substituting the sugar moiety with other small polar residues might maintain their activity as the sugar substitute would not be enzymatically cleaved. The aim of this in vitro study was to evaluate the acute antiprotozoal effect and the stability of this effect over a 24 h incubation period using ivy saponins, a stevia extract rich in iminosugars, ivy saponins with stevia extract, and a chemically modified ivy saponin, hederagenin bis-succinate (HBS). The effects on fermentation parameters and rumen bacterial communities were also studied. Ivy saponins with stevia and HBS had a greater antiprotozoal effect than ivy saponins, and this effect was maintained after 24 h of incubation (P<0.001). The combination of ivy and stevia extracts was more effective in shifting the fermentation pattern towards higher propionate (+39%) and lower butyrate (-32%) and lower ammonia concentration (-64%) than the extracts incubated separately. HBS caused a decrease in butyrate (-45%) and an increase in propionate (+43%) molar proportions. However, the decrease in ammonia concentration (-42%) observed in the presence of HBS was less than that caused by ivy saponins, either alone or with stevia. Whereas HBS and stevia impacted on bacterial population in terms of community structure, only HBS had an effect in terms of biodiversity (P<0.05). It was concluded that ivy saponins with stevia and the modified saponin HBS had a strong antiprotozoal effect, although they differed in their effects on fermentation parameters and bacteria communities. Ivy saponins combined with an iminosugar-rich stevia extract and/or HBS should be evaluated to determine their antiprotozoal effect in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0184517
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Early online date8 Sept 2017
Publication statusFirst published - 8 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Antiprotozoal Agents/pharmacology
  • Bacteria/drug effects
  • Drug Stability
  • Fermentation/drug effects
  • Glycoside Hydrolases/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Microbiota/drug effects
  • Plant Extracts/chemistry
  • Rumen/drug effects
  • Saponins/pharmacology


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