Can Crude Oil Exploration Influence the Phytochemicals and Bioactivity of Medicinal Plants? A Case of Nigerian Vernonia amygdalina and Ocimum gratissimum.

Oluwatofunmilayo A. Diyaolu, Emmanuel T. Oluwabusola, Alfred F. Attah, Eric O. Olori, Adeshola A. Fagbemi, Gagan Preet, Sylvia Soldatou, Jones O. Moody, Marcel Jaspars, Rainer Ebel

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The Nigerian Niger-Delta crude oil exploration often results in spills that affect indigenous medicinal plant biodiversity, likely changing the phytochemical profile of surviving species, their bioactivity or toxicity. In crude oil-rich Kokori and crude oil-free Abraka, classic examples of indigenous plants occupying the medicine-food interface include Vernonia amygdalina (VAL) and Ocimum gratissimum leaves (OGL). These plants are frequently utilised during pregnancy and in anaemia. To date, no scientific investigation has been reported on the potential changes to the phytochemical or bioactivity of the study plants. To discuss the similarities and dissimilarities in antisickling bioactivity and phytochemicals in VAL and OGL collected from Kokori (VAL-KK and OGL-KK) and Abraka (VAL-AB and OGL-AB), in silico, in vitro and comparative UPLC-QTOF-MS analysis was performed. Nine unique compounds were identified in OGL-KK, which have never been reported in the literature, while differences in antisickling potentials were observed in VAL-KK, OGL-KK and, VAL-AB, OGL-AB. Our findings show that VAL-AB and OGL-AB are richer and more diverse in phytochemicals and displayed a slightly higher antisickling activity than VAL-KK and OGL-KK. Ligand-based pharmacophore modelling was performed to understand the potential compounds better; this study may provide a basis for explaining the effect of crude oil spills on secondary metabolites and a reference for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8372
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors also thank Ruangelie Edrada- Ebel of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The Natural Products Metabolomics Group, Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Strathclyde for her contribution to the methodology.

The authors recognise the financial support of the Schlumberger Faculty for the Future Foundation Scholarship to conduct the present study.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.


  • Vernonia amygdalina leaves
  • Ocimum gratissimum leaves
  • sickle cell anaemia
  • molecular docking
  • metabolomics
  • pharmacophore
  • drug design
  • in silico


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