Plant fungal pathogens are a major threat to food security worldwide. The most important method of protecting plants against fungal attack is the use of fungicides, but the development of resistance towards synthetic fungicides is of great concern. Moreover, the health risks associated with the use of chemical fungicides increase the need to search for safe, efficacious and environmentally friendly fungicides. Plants produce antifungal agents by secondary metabolism to protect themselves from fungal attack, and therefore many plant species have substantial antifungal activity. The use of plant extracts could enable the development of inexpensive and environmentally acceptable fungicides based on locally available natural products. This study was undertaken to investigate weedy and invasive plant species for antifungal activity against plant pathogens in order to develop a useful product using a widely available resource. Acetone leaf extracts of seven invasive species (Chromoleana odorata, Ipomoea alba, Tecoma stans, Passiflora suberosa, Passiflora subpeltata, Aristolochia sp, Solanum seaforthianum) were screened against eight plant fungal pathogens viz Rhizoctonia solani, Fusarium oxysporium, Penicillum janthinellum, Penicillum expansum, Aspergillus parasiticus, Aspergillus niger, Pythium ultimum and Phytophthora nicotiana, using microdilution assay and bioautography. The acetone extract of Tecoma stans had reasonable antifungal activity with an average minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) value against all the fungi of 550 ìg/ml and clear zones on bioautograms indicating inhibition of fungal growth of a compounds with an Rf of 0.082 in BEA against several of the fungal pathogens. Due to the clear compound on bioautography and availability of Tecoma stans, this species was selected for further work. Bioassay-guided fractionation of the leaves of the Tecoma stans dichloromethane (DCM) extract obtained from solvent-solvent fractionation resulted in one major compound, oleanolic acid. The isolated compound had antifungal activity with an average MIC value of 130 ìg/ml against the 10 plant pathogenic fungi and clear bands with an Rf value of 0.082 on bioautograms, indicating fungal growth inhibition. It was surprising that the MIC value of the crude DCM extract was as high as that of the only compound with antifungal activity based on bioautography. These results clearly indicated the possibility of synergisms especially since the average total activity of the extract was nearly 6.5 times higher than that of oleanolic acid with total activity values of 60154 ml for the extract and 9262 ml for oleanolic acid. Cellular cytotoxicity of DCM extract and oleanolic acid was investigated using tetrazoliumbased colorimetric assay (MTT) on Vero monkey kidney cells. The toxicity of the extract and oleanolic acid was determined by LC50 values. The DCM extract and oleanolic acid were toxic with and LC50 of 0.413 mg/ml and 0.129 mg/ml respectively, lower than that of berberine the toxic compound used as control. However therapeutic index which can be defined here as the LC50 in (ìg/ml)/MIC in (ìg/ml), indicated that though the extract and oleanolic acid were toxic, they could be used under controlled conditions against infections of certain of the fungal pathogens. The crude extract had a high therapeutic index value of 21 against microorganisms T. harzianum, R. solani, F. oxysporium and P. expansum; and oleanolic acid had high therapeutic index values of 16 and 64 of against T. harzianum and R.solani respectively. This high therapeutic index value of crude extract and oleanolic acid means that, crude extract and oleanolic acid may be used for treatment of infections by these tested fungi with very little toxicity under controlled conditions. Oleanolic acid had very low antibacterial activity (MIC >250 ìg/ml). against two Grampositive (Staphylococcus aureus, ATCC 29213 and Enterococcus faecalis, ATCC 29212) and two Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli, ATCC 27853 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, ATCC 25922). Animal pathogenic fungi were more resistant than the plant fungal pathogens. Based on the good activity of the DCM crude extract, the surprising selectivity in activity against different fungi coupled with reasonably good therapeutic indexes and the wide availability of T stans leaves opens up the possibility that a commercial product to protect plants against certain pathogens may be developed from T. stans leaves. Copyright
Dissertation (MSc (Veterinary Science))--University of Pretoria, 2010.