Identification of chemical constituents of Zanthoxylum heitzii stem bark and their insecticidal activity against the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae Thu, 01/10/2015 - 13:00 Background: Zanthoxylum heitzii bark extracts have insecticidal properties and have been reported to be used against malaria in Western Africa. Previously, it has been shown that a hexane extract of the bark is toxic to adult females of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, a malaria vector. As part of our project on the control of malaria vectors using plant extracts, the phytochemistry of Z. heitzii bark hexane extract has been investigated with the aim to identify the major components with adulticidal and larvicidal effects on An. gambiae. Methods: Z. heitzii stem bark was extracted with hexane, and the extract was fractionated to isolate major components from the bark, identified by NMR spectroscopy. Isolated compounds were tested for toxicity towards adult female An. gambiae mosquitoes and for larvicidal effects towards An. gambiae. Results: The alkaloid dihydronitidine, the sesquiterpenoid caryophyllene oxide, the amide pellitorine and the lignan sesamin were identified as the major constituents in Z. heitzii bark. Pellitorine was toxic to both adult insects (LD 50 50 ng/mg insect) and larvae (LD 50 13 μg/ml). None of the other compounds were toxic to adults, but caryophyllene oxide and sesamin exhibited moderate larvicidal effects (LD 50 > 150 μg/ml). A mixture of the four compounds in the same ratio as in the hexane extract showed higher toxicity (LD 50 34 ng/mg insect) towards adult insects than the pure compounds. Conclusion: The toxicity of Z. heitzii bark hexane extract to An. gambiae is mostly due to pellitorine, although interactions between pellitorine and other, inactive constituents may enhance the activity of the extract.