Dietary pyrrolizidine (Senecio) alkaloids and tissue distribution of copper and vitamin A in broiler chickens

Jianya Huan, Peter R. Cheeke, Robert R. Lowry, Harry S. Nakaue, Stanley P. Snyder, Philip D. Whanger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The effect of feeding a diet containing 5% tansy ragwort (TR) (Senecio jacobaea), a poisonous plant containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), on the blood and liver levels of copper, zinc, iron and vitamin A in broiler chicks was examined. Serum and liver copper and liver iron concentrations were increased in chicks fed a diet with 5% TR, while serum and liver zinc and vitamin A decreased. When PA were removed from the diet, partial restoration of normal serum vitamin A level occurred, indicating that the ability to mobilize liver vitamin A is not irreversibly inhibited by PA. The decline in serum vitamin A occurred by 8 days of TR feeding with a concurrent decline in growth rate. When chicks were fed a diet high in vitamin A (25 000 IU/kg), followed by a basal diet containing TR, serum vitamin A levels were significantly (P <0.01) decreased, while liver vitamin A level increased. This indicates that mobilization of previously stored vitamin A from the liver is impaired by PA. Prior feeding of a high vitamin A level resulted in protective effects against PA toxicity, as assessed by histopathology. This study shows that a dietary source of PA modifies metabolism and tissue distribution of minerals and vitamin A.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-153
Number of pages15
JournalToxicology Letters
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Chick
  • Copper
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloid
  • Senecio jacobaea
  • Vitamin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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