Overview of available toxicity data for calystegines

calystegine, nortropane, toxicity, plant toxins, Solanaceae, alkaloids
First published in the EFSA Journal
25 January 2019
18 December 2018
Scientific Report of EFSA


Calystegines are polyhydroxylated nortropane alkaloids that have been found in various solanaceous foods, in particular in potatoes and aubergines. The biological activity and potential toxicity of calystegines are associated with their capacity to inhibit glycosidases and block carbohydrate metabolism inducing lysosomal storage toxicity. The present report summarises the retrieved information on the possible toxicity of calystegines. Only few in vivo short‐term toxicological studies in rodents on individual calystegines or mixtures of calystegines were retrieved. Overall, these studies are insufficient to conclude on the possible chronic toxicity effects of calystegines in humans, in particular considering the short duration of the studies and potential lower sensitivity of rats and mice to glycosidase inhibitors, compared to other species such as goats and guinea pigs. Several studies and case reports were retrieved on the toxic effects induced in livestock or experimental animals following consumption or administration of plants containing calystegines. However, the concurrent presence of other alkaloids, in particular swainsonine, did not allow using these studies to draw conclusions on the toxicity of calystegines. Since no experimental data on genotoxicity of calystegines were retrieved, in silico predicting models were applied to identify possible alert for genotoxicity of five calystegines recently detected in food. In most of the cases, the outcome of the computational predictions indicated no alerts for genotoxicity; however, the low reliability of the results prevents a firm conclusion on the genotoxic potential of the substances. Overall, the available data do not allow drawing conclusions on the possible toxic effects of calystegines in humans or in livestock, and more data in relevant experimental models would be necessary to characterise the toxic profile of this group of substances.

European Food Safety Authority
biocontam [at] efsa.europa.eu
EFSA Journal 2019;17(1):5574
Question Number
On request from
European Commission