The Toxicity and Kinetics of Larkspur Alkaloid, Methyllycaconitine, in Mice

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Journal of Animal Science






American Society of Animal Science

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Larkspur poisoning sporadically kills from 5 to 15% of the cattle on North American mountain rangelands. Of the 40 different diterpenoid larkspur alkaloids, the one that is thought to be responsible for much of the toxicity has been identified as methyllycaconitine (MLA). Little is known of MLA toxicokinetics or excretion. The purpose of this study was to further characterize the clinical effects of MLA toxicity in mice and determine the toxicokinetics of MLA excretion. Eight groups of mice were dosed intravenously with 2.0 mg/kg of BW of MLA, killed, and necropsied at 0, 1, 2, 5, 10, 15, 30, and 60 min after injection. Treated animals were reluctant to move, trembled, and developed dyspnea, muscular twitches, and convulsions. Within several minutes, the clinical signs abated and behavior slowly returned to normal over approximately 20 min. At necropsy serum, brain, liver, kidney, and skeletal muscle were collected and frozen. Blood and tissues were extracted and analyzed for MLA with HPLC and electron spray mass spectrometry. Blood MLA elimination followed a normal biphasic redistribution and excretion pattern (r = 0.99) with a K of elimination of 0.0376 and half-life of 18.4 min. Other tissues had similar clearance rates. These data indicate the MLA is rapidly distributed and excreted. In mice, the clinical effects of poisoning seem to affect the central nervous system, causing dyspnea and "explosive" muscular twitches and convulsions. Because livestock commonly eat larkspur at subclinical doses, they are likely to have larkspur alkaloids in many tissues. These results suggest that animals exposed to larkspur should rapidly excrete MLA (within several hours) and that the residues in animal tissues are not likely to be a problem if animals are given several days to allow toxin clearance.