Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Animal and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Eric Vanzant


Alkaloid toxicities negatively impact livestock health and production and are of serious economic concern to animal industries. To date, few strategies have been developed to evaluate alkaloid levels in feed or to counteract alkaloid toxicities. The present research evaluated the applicability of imprinting technology to synthesize polymers that have potential to interact with ergot alkaloids and therefore reduce their bioavailability in the GIT. The studies also evaluated applicability of synthesized polymers for use in the ruminal environment using an in vitro ruminal fermentation model, and for the ability to ameliorate vasoconstriction using ex vivo myographic evaluations.

In the first experiment, styrene-based molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP) was synthesized using ergotamine as the imprinting template and evaluated for specificity of adsorption to various ergot alkaloids. Cross reactivity with related alkaloids exists due to similarities in structure and functional groups. Both polymers (MIP and NIP) showed strong adsorption intensity and no difference was observed for estimated maximum adsorption capacity between MIP and NIP. Morphologically, MIP was highly porous with greater surface area than NIP. Solid phase extraction indicated stronger adsorption of MIP than NIP to ergot alkaloids suggesting the potential for MIP as a sorbent material for solid phase extraction (SPE) columns used for sample clean-up prior to HPLC or LC-MS/MS analysis of complex samples.

In Experiment 2, methacrylic acid-based polymers were synthesized with ergotamine as a template. Among the 4 alkaloids evaluated for selectivity, adsorption difference between MIP and NIP interacted with alkaloid concentration, although differences were generally consistent across concentrations. Imprinting did not affect lysergol and bromocriptine adsorption, but resulted in higher adsorption to methylergonovine. However, there was no difference between MIP and NIP for adsorption of ergotamine. Hydrophobic interactions and H-bonding were the primary interactive forces between polymers and alkaloid adsorbents. Morphologically, MIP had greater surface area and porosity implying a larger surface for adsorption. In addition to its application as SPE sorbent, this MIP was a suitable candidate for application as a feed adsorbent to reduce the bioavailability of certain alkaloid in the gut.

In experiment 3, methacrylic acid-based polymers were evaluated for their effect on in vitro ruminal fermentation. There were no interactions between polymer type and inclusion level, and no differences between polymer types for cumulative gas production or rate of gas production. Total gas production and rate of gas production were unaffected by inclusion level. Polymers did not affect total or individual VFA concentrations, ammonia-N or methane concentration at any inclusion level. However, a logarithmic increase in polymer dose level decreased the pH linearly with maximum depression of 0.24 units. This study indicated that, within the range of expected use levels, polymers were essentially inert and would not be expected to affect ruminal fermentation.

In experiment 4, ex vivo myographic bioassays were used to determine the impact of polymers on ergotamine bioavailability. Responses measured in the ex vivo myographic studies had similar trend as the responses generated from in vitro isothermal adsorption studies. Results of that study also showed that ex vivo myographic responses could be predicted from in vitro isothermal adsorption studies with more than 80% accuracy. These studies indicate that synthetic polymers are potentially effective adsorbents to mitigate ergot toxicity with little evidence of substantial differences between MIP and NIP.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)