Hydroxy-octadecenoic acids instead of phorbol esters are responsible for the Jatropha curcas kernel cake’s toxicity

Xing Hong Wang, Jie Qing Liu, Suiyun Chen, Yanfeng Yin, Yan Liu, Changhe Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The toxic kernel cake of Jatropha curcas (KCakeJ) is an emerging health and environmental concern. Although phorbol esters are widely recognized as the major toxin of KCakeJ, convincing evidence is absent. Here, we show that rather than phorbol esters an isomeric mixture of 11-hydroxy-9E-octadecenoic acid, 12-hydroxy-10E-octadecenoic acid and 12-hydroxy-10Z-octadecenoic acid (hydroxy-octadecenoic acids, molecular formula C18H34O3) is the major toxic component. The toxicities of hydroxy-octadecenoic acids on experimental animals, e.g. acute lethality, causing inflammation, pulmonary hemorrhage and thrombi, allergies, diarrhea and abortion, are consistent with those on human/animals caused by Jatropha seed and/or KCakeJ. The hydroxyl group and the double bond are essential for hydroxy-octadecenoic acids’ toxicity. The main pathway of the toxicity mechanism includes down-regulating UCP3 gene expression, promoting ROS production, thus activating CD62P expression (platelet activation) and mast cell degranulation. The identification of the major toxin of KCakeJ lays a foundation for establishing an environmentally friendly Jatropha biofuel industry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number228
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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