Thursday, 7 January 2021

December phytochemicals - the flavor of cinnamon

We made it to #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: phyllodulcin - a coumarin found in several Hydrangea species (incl. macrophylla, shown here). It is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Several synthetic organic routes to this compound are known... but biosynthesis is unknown!

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Continuing the theme of molecules >100 times sweeter than sugar (thanks @TunnicliffeRoss!), let's look at mogroside V - a triterpenoid glycoside from Siraitia grosvenorii (Cucurbitaceae). A sweetener Asia for 100s (if not 1000s) of years - amazing!

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Raise a glass of #Christmas cheer to cinnamaldehyde. Isolated from bark of Cinnamomum verum (the cinnamon tree), this small, simple molecule underlies the cinnamon flavor and is a favorite in gum, beverages, and cereals - it can even repel mosquitos!

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

November Phytochemicals - Another month, another sweetener

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: trilobatin, a compound from apple leaves (Malus domestica) with potential as a plant-based low-calorie sweetener. A new report in @PlantPhys (https://bit.ly/3n0aqOZ) describes the reconstruction of trilobatin biosynthesis in tobacco. So cool!

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: momilactone B - a diterpenoid produced in Oryza sativa (rice) roots. This compound is allelopathic - it's able to inhibit the growth of plants competing with its maker. Its biosynthetic pathway was recently discovered (https://go.nature.com/3lutXqp)!

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

October phytochemicals - Inconceivable!

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: lycorine, a toxic alkaloid (a nitrogen-containing compound) found in daffodils and some lilies (such as Clivia miniata, Amaryllidaceae). It seems to interfere with protein synthesis if ingested - i.e. don't confuse daffodil bulbs with onions!

Today, iocaine - an odorless, tasteless, plant-based powder from Australia that dissolves instantly in liquid and is among the more deadly poisons known to man. At least one can build up an immunity to it! Happy 33rd birthday to The Princess Bride, and happy #PhytochemicalFriday!
#PhytochemicalFriday! Eugenol, a phenylpropene with a pleasant, spicy scent: the main aroma compound in cloves (Syzygium aromaticum buds). Experience it by lighting a festive autumn candle or have your dentist mix it with zinc oxide to make a tooth filling. Thanks @nicole_groth_!

Friday, 2 October 2020

September phytochemicals! Why are shrimp and flamingos pink?

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today's suggestion from @YankeeLady76. Spilanthol: a fatty amide from the 'electric daisy' Acmella oleracea. Chewing the plant's flowers releases spilanthol into the mouth, causing a tingling, static-like sensation. Signature cocktail ingredient!

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: alpha-Eleostearic acid, the primary component of tung oil - a wood finish that is believed to have been used since before the common era. The oil is harvested from Vernicia fordii (Euphorbiaceae!?) - a tree with separate male and female flowers.
Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: miraculin - a glycoprotein from the miracle fruit Synsepalum dulcificum (Sapotaceae; Ericales). It binds to sweetness receptors on the tongue and makes normally sour-tasting food seem sweet, inspiring the name 'miracle berry'. Try it out!
Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Why are flamingos and shrimp pink? Astaxanthin - a blood-red ketocarotenoid made by microalgae that makes its way up the food chain to chordates and arthropods (among others), giving them a pink hue. An important molecule to consider in aquaculture.

August Phytochemicals! From balsa wood rafts to oleandrin

On this date in 1947, Thor Heyerdahl's balsa wood raft "Kon-Tiki" crashed into a reef in Polynesia having crossed 5000 miles of Pacific Ocean in 3.5 months. The raft's strength came from lignin, but also cellulose - the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. #PhytochemicalFriday

Happy #PhytochemicalFriday! Today: helenalin, a sesquiterpene lactone from Arnica montana (Asteraceae: sunflower family!). Though a toxic (plant defense?) compound, it appears to be able to inhibit human telomerase and is thus being investigated as an antitumor agent.
#PhytochemicalFriday? Oleandrin. Cardiac glycoside of the poisonous plant Nerium oleander and cousin of digoxin, Bond's poison in Casino Royale. As @wayneriekhof correctly points out: < 1% of hits in antiviral screens are effective drugs. Let patience and hard evidence guide us.
Happy #PhytochemicalFriday - you made it! Today: amarogentin - a characteristic component of bartenders' aromatic bitters. Isolated from gentian roots, this glycoside is one of the most bitter compounds known to human kind and is used as a standard in measuring bitterness.

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.