Wednesday, 6 March 2019

March Phytochemicals - toxins and medicines

"Locoweeds" (some Astralagus and Oxytropis spp. - Fabaceae) produce the indolizidine alkaloid swainsonine, a compound causing neurological disorders in cattle. The compound inhibits glycoside hydrolases and is being investigated as a potential chemotheraputic.

The classic alkaloid morphine: used since ~400AD, and believed to be the first active ingredient isolated from a plant, Papaver somniferum (+ other Papaverales, mammals). The latex of some P. somniferum varieties contain ~25% morphine (or ~0%!).

Inspired by @LegumeFed: daidzein. Apparently exclusive to legumes, including Trifolium spp. (the clovers that inspired St. Patrick's analogy between the shamrock and the holy trinity), these compounds are believed to protect against pathogens.

Pilocarpine - an imidazole alkaloid from tropical Pilocarpus spp. ("jaborandi", Rutaceae). This compound is on the WHO's List of Essential Medicines as a treatment for glaucoma, among other things. Genetic basis of biosynthesis still unknown!

Arbutin, a simple glycosylated hydroquinone from Arctostaphylos dwarf shrubs in the Ericaceae (tho found in other plants) that inhibits tyrosinase - the rate-limiting enzyme in melanin biosynthesis and toxic to insects.