- Abstract Here we report the effect of a partially purified alkaloid fraction (NUP) of Nuphar lutea on nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) expression and studied its mechanism of toxicity against Leishmania major in C3H mice peritoneal macrophages. NUP was found to be a mixture of thermo-stable dimeric sesquiterpene thioalkaloids containing mainly thionupharidines. The anti-leishmanial activity was shown to be mediated through the activation of NF-κB and increased iNOS production. Additionally, the nitric oxide inhibitor, N G -monomethyl- l -arginine (0.5 mM) totally reverted the anti-leishmanial effect of NUP (0.25 and 0.5 μg/ml). NUP was also shown to act as an anti-oxidant, almost completely inhibiting the macrophage respiratory burst activity. However, no elevated lysozyme (EC188.8.131.52) or β-galactosidase (EC184.108.40.206) activities were demonstrated in macrophages treated with NUP. This study suggests, that the activity of NUP is mediated by NF-κB activation and the production of nitric oxide which is dependent on the l -arginine:NO pathway.