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Volume 3 Issue 7, July 2007

Volume 3 Issue 7

Natural products, and terpenes in particular, have long fascinated scientists with their remarkable structural diversity and their often unknown biological functions. In this issue, we feature a collection of articles meant to shed light on the synthesis, sources and significance of terpenoid natural products. Terpene structures courtesy of Seiichi Matsuda. Cover art by Erin Boyle, based on a photo by Rodolfo Clix.


  • Editorial |

    Natural products research focuses on the chemical properties, biosynthesis and biological functions of secondary metabolites. As our scientific understanding of all things 'natural' is rapidly expanding, we should also make time to communicate the subtleties of chemical distinctions to the public.



  • Commentary |

    Biosynthetic pathways for secondary metabolites usually make many products, not just one. In this Commentary, we consider why molecular promiscuity might be an evolutionarily advantageous feature of these pathways.

    • Michael A Fischbach
    • Jon Clardy
  • Commentary |

    Project ownership is an essential but sometimes overlooked ingredient for a successful undergraduate research experience. We have embarked on an experiment in undergraduate education that targets isolation of microbes from rainforest plants and characterization of natural products as objectives for discovery-based undergraduate research.

    • Scott A Strobel
    • Gary A Strobel
  • Commentary |

    Mixtures of interacting compounds produced by plants may provide important combination therapies that simultaneously affect multiple pharmacological targets and provide clinical efficacy beyond the reach of single compound–based drugs. Developing innovative scientific methods for discovery, validation, characterization and standardization of these multicomponent botanical therapeutics is essential to their acceptance into mainstream medicine.

    • Barbara M Schmidt
    • David M Ribnicky
    • Ilya Raskin


  • Elements |

    Understanding the creation, induction and function of natural products that are important for microbial communication are central aims for scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute.

    • Catherine Goodman

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Formation of the dauer diapause stage in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been the subject of intensive study over the past few decades. Recent work has established the chemical structure of three components of the secreted dauer pheromone mixture, thereby ushering in a new era in which the functions of the pheromones can be studied in detail.

    • Piali Sengupta
    • James H Thomas
  • News & Views |

    The development of a technique for measuring calcium concentrations in nanodomains next to calcium channels provides new insights into calcium signaling.

    • Eric Green
    • Ricardo E Dolmetsch
  • News & Views |

    Newly identified peptide antagonists of the GPCR Methuselah confirm the role of this receptor in aging and should prove useful as tools for investigating the physiological functions of this class of receptor.

    • Deirdre McGarrigle
    • Xin-Yun Huang
  • News & Views |

    A combination of structural and functional data provides insight into the mechanism used by the blue light photosensory protein Vivid to convert the light-driven formation of a protein-flavin bond into a conformational change in the surrounding protein.

    • Wen-Huang Ko
    • Abigail I Nash
    • Kevin H Gardner
  • News & Views |

    Oxygenases have long been thought to require a cofactor for catalysis. The structure of a vancomycin biosynthetic enzyme in complex with a substrate analog, and with molecular oxygen bound in its active site, supports the idea that cofactor-independent oxygenases act by mediating direct single-electron transfer from a substrate anion to dioxygen.

    • Susanne Fetzner


Review Article




In This Issue


  • Focus |

    Natural Products

    Investigations into natural products have recently regained prominence with the increasing understanding of their biological significance and increasing recognition of the origin and function of their structural diversity. This issue highlights some of the major questions and advances in natural products research, from recent synthetic approaches to access complicated natural products to a new educational program which utilizes natural products as a basis for discovery-based research.


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