ACS Omega, 2023.

Chemical Composition and Antiplasmodial Activity of the Essential Oil of Rhododendron subarcticum Leaves from Nunavik, Québec, Canada

Jean-Christophe SÉguin, Dominic Gagnon, Sarah BÉlanger, Dave Richard, Xavier Fernandez, StÉphane Boudreau, Normand Voyer

Dwarf Labrador tea, Rhododendron subarcticum Harmaja, is a popular medicinal plant in use by First Nations of Northern Canada, but its phytochemistry has remained largely unexplored. We have isolated and characterized the essential oil from a population of this species harvested near the treeline in Nunavik, Québec. Analyses by gas chromatography−mass spectrometry (GC−MS) and gas chromatography/flame-ionization detection (GC/FID) led to the identification of 53 compounds; the main secondary metabolites were ascaridole (64.7% of the total FID area) and p-cymene (21.1%). Such a composition resembles a chemotype observed for R. tomentosum, a close relative found mainly in Europe and Asia, but has never been attributed to R. subarcticum. Growth inhibition assays against different strains of Plasmodium falciparum (3D7, Dd2), the parasite responsible for the most severe form of malaria, were conducted with either the R. subarcticum’s essential oil or the isolated ascaridole. Our results show that the essential oil’s biological activity can be attributed to ascaridole as its IC50 is more than twice that of ascaridole [ascaridole’s IC50 values are 147.3 nM (3D7) and 104.9 nM (Dd2)].

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