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Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) shoot saponins: identification and bio-activity by the assessment of aphid feeding

  • H. Mazahery-Laghab (a1), B. Yazdi-Samadi (a2), M. Bagheri (a3) and A. R. Bagheri (a4)


Biochemical components in alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), such as saponins, can act as protecting factors against bio-stresses. Saponins are also antifeedants and show oral toxicity towards higher and lower animals. Changes in saponins, such as variation in the carbon skeleton, or hydrolysis of saponin glycosides and other conjugates, may change their biological effects. The aims of this research were to study saponin variation in different growth stages of alfalfa and to investigate the biological role of saponins in the spotted alfalfa aphid, Therioaphis maculata. Saponins from alfalfa shoots in different growth stages were extracted, chemically purified and analysed by TLC. Specific saponins such as soyasaponin1 from root and shoot and two bisdesmosides of medicagenic acid, one from shoot and another from root tissues, were identified using reference compounds allowing changes in saponin composition during plant development in different shoot tissues of alfalfa to be assessed. The response of the alfalfa aphid to feeding on alfalfa in different growth stages was studied. No significant difference in the survival of aphids, from neonate to adult, was observed, but due to the antibiotic effects of saponins, two differences were found in the onset of nymph production and cumulative nymph production. The results show that the saponin composition in alfalfa changes with plant development and this, in turn, can often negatively affect the development of specific insect pests such as the spotted alfalfa aphid, suggesting a possible biological role of alfalfa saponins.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: H. Mazahery-Laghab, fax +98 811 4424012, email


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Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) shoot saponins: identification and bio-activity by the assessment of aphid feeding

  • H. Mazahery-Laghab (a1), B. Yazdi-Samadi (a2), M. Bagheri (a3) and A. R. Bagheri (a4)


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