The secondary metabolite emodin, produced by the widely distributed invasive shrub known as the common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), has been shown to produce deformities and mortality in invertebrates, fish, and amphibian larvae. Here, we describe the effects on the liver of green frog (Lithobates clamitans) tadpoles after 21 d of exposure to high concentrations of emodin in a controlled environment. Histopathologic analysis showed fibrosis, bile duct proliferation, hepatocellular swelling, and accumulations of flocculent material consistent with emodin within the gall bladder and bile ducts of exposed individuals. The extensive fibrosis produced probably impeded the blood flow within the portal triads, limiting the detoxification function of the liver and resulting in hepatocellular necrosis and premature death for the individuals exposed. Exposure to emodin in the environment could represent a significant threat to developing amphibian larvae and contribute to local declines of populations.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2