Toxicity and Alkaloid Profiling of the Skin of the Golfo Dulcean Poison Frog Phyllobates vittatus (Dendrobatidae)
Frogs in the genus Phyllobates are known for the presence of batrachotoxin, a highly toxic alkaloid, in their skin. Nevertheless, Phyllobates frogs from Costa Rica and Panama (P. lugubris and P. vittatus) are considered non-toxic, as they have been reported to harbor low concentrations of this alkaloid. However, the potential toxicity of Central American Phyllobates has not been assessed experimentally. Our goal was to determine the toxicity of the whole skin of P. vittatus, an endemic species from the Southeastern Pacific region of Costa Rica. We performed median lethal dose (LD50) tests in mice to determine general toxicity, and an irritant assay based on the behavioral responses of mice to subcutaneous injection, to determine differences in irritability, as a measure of toxicity, among three study localities. Using UPLC-ESI-QTOF, we obtained chemical profiles of the methanolic extract of frog skins. Due to the absence of mortality at the studied doses, we were unable to estimate LD50. However, we recorded a list of toxicity symptoms in mice that are consistent with cardiotoxic effects, and found that mice presented more symptoms at higher concentrations of skin extracts during the first hour of the LD50 assays, recovering completely at all doses by the end of the assay. On the other hand, we did not detect differences in irritability among studied localities. Additionally, we putatively identified three toxic alkaloids (Batrachotoxinin A, DHQ 251A and Lehm 275A). This study provides the first experimental data on the toxicity and associated symptoms in mice, as well as the chemical profile of the skin of P. vittatus. We suggest that the skin alkaloids of P. vitattus may confer a chemical defense towards predators.