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Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Solanine is a glycoalkaloid poison found in species of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), such as the potato (Solanum tuberosum) and the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). It can occur naturally in any part of the plant, including the leaves, fruit, and tubers. Solanine has fungicidal and pesticidal properties, and it is one of the plant's natural defenses. Solanine was first isolated in 1820 from the berries of the European black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), after which it was named.
Solanine poisoning 
Solanine poisoning is primarily displayed by gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning of the throat, cardiac dysrhythmia, nightmare, headache and dizziness. In more severe cases, hallucinations, loss of sensation, paralysis, fever, jaundice, dilated pupils, hypothermia and death have been reported.
In large quantities, solanine poisoning can cause death. One study suggests that doses of 2 to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight can cause toxic symptoms, and doses of 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight can be fatal.
Symptoms usually occur 8 to 12 hours after ingestion, but may occur as rapidly as 30 minutes after eating high-solanine foods.
The lowest dose to cause symptoms of nausea is about 25 mg solanine for adults, a life-threatening dose for a regular-weight adult ranges about 400 mg solanine.
Mechanism of action 
One study suggests that the toxic mechanism of solanine is caused by the chemical's interaction with mitochondrial membranes. Experiments show that solanine exposure opens the potassium channels of mitochondria, decreasing their membrane potential. This in turn leads to Ca2+ being transported from the mitochondria into the cytoplasm, and it is this increased concentration of Ca2+ in the cytoplasm that triggers cell damage and apoptosis.
Correlation with birth defects 
Some studies show a correlation between the consumption of potatoes suffering from late blight (which increases solanine and other glycoalkaloid levels) and the incidence of congenital spina bifida in humans. However, other studies have shown no correlation between potato consumption and the incidence of birth defects.
Solanine in potatoes 
Solanine occurs naturally in many species of the genus Solanum, including the potato (Solanum tuberosum), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), eggplant (Solanum melongena), and bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).
Potatoes naturally produce solanine and chaconine, a related glycoalkaloid, as a defense mechanism against insects, disease, and predators. Potato leaves, stems and shoots are naturally high in glycoalkaloids.
When potato tubers are exposed to light, they turn green and increase glycoalkaloid production. This is a natural defense to help prevent the uncovered tuber from being eaten. The green colour is from chlorophyll, and is itself harmless. However, it is an indication that increased level of solanine and chaconine may be present.
Some diseases, such as late blight, can dramatically increase the levels of glycoalkaloids present in potatoes. Mechanically damaged potatoes also produce increased levels of glycoalkaloids. This is believed to be a natural reaction of the plant in response to disease and damage.
In potato tubers, 30–80% of the solanine develops in and close to the skin.
In the 70s, Solanine poisoning affected 78 school boys in Britain. Due to immediate and effective treatments, no one died.
Showing green under the skin strongly suggests solanine build-up in potatoes, although each process can occur without the other. A bitter taste in a potato is another, potentially more reliable indicator of toxicity. Because of the bitter taste and appearance of such potatoes, solanine poisoning is rare outside conditions of food shortage. The symptoms are mainly vomiting and diarrhea, and the condition may be misdiagnosed as gastroenteritis. Most potato poisoning victims recover fully, although fatalities are known, especially when victims are undernourished or do not receive suitable treatment. Fatalities are also known from solanine poisoning from other plants in the nightshade family, such as the berries of Solanum dulcamara (woody nightshade).
The United States National Institutes of Health's information on solanine says to never eat potatoes that are green below the skin.
Deep frying potatoes at 170°C (338°F) is known to effectively lower glycoalkaloid levels (because they move into the frying fat), as well as boiling (because solanine is water soluble) whereas microwaving is only somewhat effective, freeze drying or dehydration has little effect. 
Solanine in tomatoes 
Some, such as the California Poison Control System, have claimed that tomatoes and tomato leaves contain solanine. However, Dr. Mendel Friedman of the federal Department of Agriculture contradicts this claim stating that tomatine, a relatively benign alkaloid, is the tomato alkaloid while solanine is found in potatoes. Food science writer Harold McGee has found scant evidence for tomato toxicity in the medical and veterinary literature.
Other uses of solanine 
Solanine has sedative and anticonvulsant properties, and has been used as a treatment for asthma, as well as for cough and cold medicines. However, its effectiveness for either use is questionable.
See also 
- Desfosses, M. (1820): Extrait d'une lettre à M. Robiquet. In: J. de Pharmacie. Bd. 6, S. 374–376.
- Executive Summary of Chaconine & Solanine[dead link]
- Gao SY, Wang QJ, Ji YB (June 2006). "Effect of solanine on the membrane potential of mitochondria in HepG2 cells and (Ca2+)i in the cells". World Journal of Gastroenterology 12 (21): 3359–67. PMID 16733852. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
- "SOLANINE AND CHACONINE". Retrieved 31 May 2009.
- "Solanine Poisoning". Article. British Medical Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- "Solanine poisoning". Br Med J. 2 (6203): 1458–1459. 1979-12-08. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.6203.1458-a. PMC 1597169. PMID 526812.
- R. F. Alexander, G. B. Forbes, and E. S. Hawkins (1948-09-11). "A Fatal Case of Solanine Poisoning". Br Med J. 2 (4575): 518. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4575.518. PMC 2091497. PMID 18881287.
- "Review of Toxicological Literature prepared for Errol Zeiger, Ph.D, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Submitted by Raymond Tice". Testing Status of Agents at NTP (National Toxicology Program). February 1998.
- "Solanine poisoning from potatoes.". FDA Poisonous Plant Database. 1960.
- McGee, Harold (2009-07-29). "Accused, Yes, but Probably Not a Killer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- a-Chaconine and a-Solanine, Review of Toxicological Literature
- MedlinePlus Encyclopedia 002875 - "Green tubers and sprouts"