Case Solved: The Biosynthesis of Strychnine

The Biosynthesis of Strychnine the Researchers from Jena show how the poison nut tree forms strychnine.

Case Solved The Biosynthesis of Strychnine

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena disclosed the complete biosynthetic pathway for the formation of strychnine in the plant species Strychnos nux-vomica (poison nut). After identifying all genes involved in the biosynthesis of strychnine and other metabolites, the researchers expressed them in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. This demonstrated that these extremely complex and pharmacologically important molecules can be synthesized using “metabolic engineering” methods.

Strychnine is something many people know about from crime reports, novels, or films. For example, Agatha Christie had several of her victims die of strychnine poisoning. In her first novel “The Mysterious Affair at Style,” she described what is probably the best-known fictional murder case involving the highly toxic alkaloid used as rat poison. The final clue to solving the case was found by the legendary detective character Hercule Poirot in his first literary appearance.

In science, as well, investigative instinct and detective work are sometimes required. The scientists led by Benke Hong and Sarah O’Connor from the Department of Natural Product Biosynthesis not only had to find one missing link, but they had to unravel the entire chain of biosynthetic events that lead to the formation of strychnine in the poison nut tree. Stay in the language of crime literature, one could say: They have solved the case! Robert Robinson, the chemist and Nobel Prize winner, who was one of the first to elucidate the structure of strychnine in the 1940s, once described this monoterpene indole alkaloid as the most complex chemical substance for its molecular size. Many chemists were intrigued by the architecture of the strychnine molecule and developed ways to produce this molecule using chemical synthesis. Surprisingly, however, no one had yet succeeded in determining how plants produce this natural product.

Source: This news is originally published by scitechdaily