Biosynthesis of the Belladonna Alkaloids


THE origin of the tropane (and other) alkaloids in the plants that produce them has not been the object if much interest in the past. This seems to have been due to the sterility of the teleological appear to which they were subjected. They have been variously dismissed as reserve products of singular ineffectiveness, as flotsam thrown up on the beach of metabolism, and even as that final resort of the guesser hard up for a guess, a mechanism of detoxication. They are, nevertheless, very interesting substances for phytochemical investigation on account of their great variety, their relation to the proteins and the soluble nitrogen compounds, their specificity and the mystery of their coming and going. They are rendered especially suitable for investigation at the present time by the wealth of knowledge concerning their organic chemistry, and by the relative ease of their manipulation when compared with the other complex nitrogen compounds in the plant. The study of alkaloid metabolism may be expected to yield much information valuable to the wider study of the plant's nitrogen metabolism in general.

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    Oxford Medicinal Plants Scheme, Annual Reports 1941–2–3–4–5.

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JAMES, W. Biosynthesis of the Belladonna Alkaloids. Nature 158, 654–656 (1946).

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