Five saponins purified from the leaves of three Ilex species (saponins 1 and 2 from I. dumosa; saponin 3 from I. argentina; saponin 4 from I. paraguariensis) and from Passiflora alata (saponin 5) were evaluated for their in vitro haemolytic activity and in vivo immunostimulatory ability in a mouse model using tetanus toxoid (TT) as a model antigen.
The assayed saponins showed very weak or no haemolytic activity over the tested concentration range. Mice were immunized twice with TT formulated with pure saponins 1–5 , or with a mixture of saponins from Quillaja saponaria, aluminum hydroxide gel or saline, which were used as controls. The elicited humoral response was evaluated by means of the time course of specific serum antibody levels up to day 131 post-priming (total IgG and isotypes); the cellular response was tested through a delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) assay. The assayed saponins, in particular saponins 3 and 5, showed an adjuvant effect similar to that of alum for all tested parameters. The immunostimulating potential of these compounds deserves further investigation, especially taking into account that some Ilex spp. and Passiflora alata are native crops of widespread use and economical importance in Latin America. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.