Wednesday, 26 August 2020

July Phytochemicals - Happy Birthday Harry Potter!

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: abietic acid - the primary component of pines' resin acid. This diterpene is a major part of rosin - a solid used to increase friction in many applications: from violinists' bows to flamenco dancers' shoe heels to drag racing starting lines.

Englerin A, a terpenoid from the bark of the (sub)tropical plant Phyllanthus engleri. This compound causes kidney cancer cells, but not healthy cells, to flood with calcium and die. Its total synthesis begins with nepetalactone, catnip's active ingredient! #PhytochemicalFriday
Happy #PhytochemicalFriday and #HappyBirthdayHarryPotter! Today: the monoterpenoids carvacrol, cymene, and thymol. These are major aroma compounds in Cretan dittany (Origanum dictamnus), the plant used to prepare Essence of Dittany, a healing potion in the Harry Potter series.

Monday, 6 July 2020

June phytochemicals: A giant genome and saffron carotenoids

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! This week: diosgenin - a building block used by Paris polyphylla (the plant with the biggest genome sequenced to date - 70Gb!) to produce polyphyllins. Diosgenin is used in the commercial synthesis of cortisone, progesterone, and other steroid products.

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Worth more than their weight in gold, saffron crocus stigmata (Crocus sativus, Iridaceae) produce the carotenoid crocin – the compound that gives the "king of spices" its characteristic red color. The compound is also an antioxidant.

Monday, 1 June 2020

May phytochemicals: Cinco de Mayo and a Sherlock Holmes poison

Root bark of Uncaria tomentosa ("Cat's claw", Gentianales) is used in traditional medicine. Oxindole alkaloids like uncarine are major U. tomentosa root bark constituents. They're associated with a variety of bioactivities, but are in need of more research! #PhytochemicalFriday

Drinking tequila leftover from #CincodeMayo? I too enjoy homoisoflavones - unusual phenolic compounds that only occur in some species. Those pictured here were found in Agave tequilana, the base ingredient in tequila. #PhytochemicalFriday

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: avenacins, fluorescent antimicrobial compounds produced by oat roots (Avena sativa). These triterpenoid saponins protect the plant against soil-borne pathogens and their biosynthesis is integrated with root hair development!

This #PhytochemicalFriday, birthday of #ArthurConanDoyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes): gelsemine, a poison similar to that in The Adventure of the Devil's Foot. This highly toxic compound from Gelsemium elegans ("heartbreak grass", Gentianales) is still used by modern assassins.

Friday, 15 May 2020

April phytochemicals: Spring flowers and ibogaine

Looking forward to summer flowers like clematis? Don't forget their defensive chemistry! Many clematis species produce ranunculin, an unusual glucoside that, when the plant is attacked, is converted into the lactone protoanemonin, a toxin not to be ingested! #PhytochemicalFriday

Happy Good #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: phenol, typically thought of as a petroleum product, but is of course also a bioproduct, and a component of the essential oil of hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), a plant mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. Thanks @HarvLovesAcct for suggesting!

Ibogaine, an alkaloid from Tabernanthe iboga (an Apocynaceae shrub). This compound can induce psychedelic effects upon ingestion and is used in some spiritual practices. Also used by some to treat opioid addiction, and is the subject of several documentaries. #PhytochemicalFriday

Friday, 3 April 2020

March phytochemicals: fenugreek and 'maple syrup urine disease'

Ever use fenugreek in a recipe but wonder what those little things actually are? Seeds of Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fabaceae) provide unique flavor to certain curries - also contain trigonelline (a zwitterion - yes!) a methylated form of niacin/vitamin B3 #PhytochemicalFriday

This #PhytochemicalFriday: sotolone, a lactone found in various plants and plant products incl. molasses and rum. It's a powerful aroma and flavor compound - tastes like maple syrup and caramel. Our bodies can also produce it, and in cases of maple syrup urine disease, to excess.

Daffodil bulbs & flowers, with their prominent coronas (the circular, yellow structures), contain lycorine - a toxic alkaloid found across the daffodil family (Amaryllidaceae) - that can inhibit protein synthesis. Do not confuse daffodil bulbs with onions! #PhytochemicalFriday

February phytochemicals: the smell of roses and "mad honey disease"

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! This week, moronic acid, a triterpenoid compound found in some Phoradendron species (Santalaceae, one of my favorite plant families!), as well as Brucea javanica (Simaroubaceae). This compound has been found effective against the herpes simplex virus.

Happy #Valentines2020 / #PhytochemicalFriday! What chemicals make up the scent of roses? Two major contributors are beta-damascenone and beta-damascone. The plant makes these compounds by degrading a carotenoid called neoxanthin (a relative of beta-carotene). #academicvalentine

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday from a snowy visit to @MedPlantChem at @NorthernMichU. Today: grayanotoxin, a compound found in some Ericaceae species, incl. Rhododendron & Agarista. Honey made by bees that solely collect these plants' nectar can be toxic, causing 'mad honey disease'!

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today, nickel. Not strictly a phytochemical, but something that can accumulate to high levels (higher than in ore!) in many species. The element can be mined from trees as described by Ian Morse in this @NYTScience article:

January Phytochemicals: hops, and compounds in filtered vs. unfiltered coffee

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: cafestol, a diterpenoid found in Coffea arabica (#Coffee; Rubiaceae) present in unfiltered preparations like French press coffee, but absent in most filtered drinks like drip coffee. Its bioactive effects are being studied using animal models.

If you enjoy the flavor of hops this #PhytochemicalFriday, you're tasting isohumulones, products of a hop chemical (humulone) as it degrades during brewing. They provide hops a characteristic bitter flavor. Their parent, humulone, seems to act as an antiviral and antimicrobial.

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: 3-carene, a piney/earthy smelling monoterpene from pine resins (Pinus species) that can also be a major component of turpentine - a solvent obtained by distilling pine resin. The compound is used in the perfume and chemical industries.