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Potato Poisoning

By Kimberly Blackhorse, Debra Grymko, Arthur Sedore, and Joni Linae Wood.

Nightshade Family

Nightshade family includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant There are 2500 species of potatoes spread all over the world, but mainly in tropical America

Source of Toxin ationId=208

Toxin is found throughout the plant Higher levels in green areas of potatoes and in sprouts (eyes of potato) Greening is strongly affected by light, age, and damage

Light Exposure

In potato tubers, the greening is a sign that there may be an increase in the presence of glycoalkaloids, especially the substance solanine Light is not needed for solanine formation With light exposure, glycoalkaloid formation is increased Light-exposure may cause an increase of ten-fold

Green Potatoes: the Problem and the Solution. Alexander D. Pavlista. Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. G01-1437-A.


sugar [solanose] + alkaloid [solanidine] = Solanine, a glucoalkaloid Cultivated potatoes contain 10 mg of glycoalkaloid per 100 g of potato, wild potatoes in the Andes can be more than double that.

Fully refined solanine appears in the form of a gray-green liquid

Normal Function

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system (nerve-muscle connections) that is sent across the synaptic cleft After attaching to the receptor, acetylcholine is released back into the synaptic cleft Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that hydrolyzes acetylcholine into choline and acetate Choline is recycled by the synaptic bulb to be reused and reformed into acetylcholine

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Toxin Mechanism

Solanine is an inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase that blocks the breakdown of acetylcholine. Accumulation of acetylcholine in the synaptic cleft leads to excitotoxicity of the post-synaptic receptors. Excitotoxicity is the over-stimulation of neuron receptors

Effect of Inhibition

Initial neurons death leads to damage of neighboring neurons Muscles are continuously stimulated by a domino effect of action potentials. Muscle spasms and continuous contraction result without relaxation


Solanine is very poisonous even in very small quantities. The LD50 in mice is 42mg/kg when injected into the abdomen. A 200-pound person would have to eat two pounds of fully green domesticated potatoes in a single day to observe any adverse effects A)It is much more toxic when injected R)since solanine is poorly absorbed through the gut wall Potatoes containing more than 0.1 percent solanine (.01 oz / 10 oz potato) are considered unfit for eating Potentially high levels for a 100-lb person would be 16 ounces of a fully green potato

Signs & Symptoms

Solanine directly irritates the mucosal membranes of the gastrointestinal tract S)If solanine is absorbed into the bloodstream, causes hemolysis of red blood cells S)Signs of solanine poisoning are excessive salivation, diarrhea, slowed pulse, reduced blood pressure and respirations which can lead to cardiac arrest Common symptoms of solanine poisoning occur 2 to 24 hours after introduction into body.

Others may include:

Hypothermia Paralysis Shock Fever Dilated pupils Headache Delirium Loss of sensation Hallucinations Coma Death


Monitor patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure Fluid levels are monitored and maintained Medicines to treat symptoms Vomiting is induced A nasogastric tube through the nose to empty the stomach (gastric lavage)

Work Cited produce.html Green Potatoes: the Problem and the Solution. Alexander D. Pavlista. Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. G01-1437-A.

Work Cited (Cont) Merck Index 12th edition.Merck and Co INC. 1996 Pg 148-149, 1444,1485-1486 Clarke, EGC and Clarke Myra. Garner's Veterinary Toxicology3rd edition. Williams and Wilkins Co. 1967. Pgs. 395-397 Ellenhorn, Matthew. Ellenhorn's Medical Toxicology. WilliamsandWilkinsCo. 1997. Pgs. 1854-1855. "Blue Nightshade". WebMDHealth. 1999. "Poisoned by Tomato" Cheeke, Peter and Skull, Lee. Natural Toxicants in Feeds and PoisonousPlants.AVI.1985. Pgs. 131-135 "Is there poison in potatos?" 2003.