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Research on new discovery in biology - Essay Example

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Natural Cocaine Production in Plants Name Subject Teacher Date               Natural Cocaine Production in Plants Researchers and scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology based in Jena, Germany have discovered how cocaine is synthesized by the coca plant…
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Download file to see previous pages The coca plant has similar biochemical properties as those that produce alkaloids. The coca plant belongs to a group of plants with natural alkaloids, or nitrogen-containing compounds that produce diverse effects on the physiology of humans. The alkaloid compounds in these plants are proven to have strong pharmacological effects on people and are known to contain nicotine, caffeine, quinine, morphine, atropine, strychnine, and the illegal stimulant compound cocaine. The plants that contain alkaloids include the Solanaceae or potato family, the Brassicaceae or mustard family, and the Erythroxylaceae or coca family, to which the coca plant belongs. The close relatedness of these plants is not only justified by the fact that they all contain alkaloid compounds but also by the fact that they had a common ancestor around 120 million years ago and that the alkaloid compounds that they contain obey similar biochemical pathways. The significance of this fact is that if one were to uncover the details of the natural synthesis of cocaine, then it is possible to study it from the point of view of the other plants to which the coca plant is related (How Plants Make Cocaine, 2012). ...
The plant known as belladonna, which belongs to the Solanaceae family, produces the tropane alkaloid known as atropine, and the synthesis of this alkaloid was compared with that of cocaine in the coca plant. Although the biochemical pathway and mechanism involved in the synthesis of alkaloids is basically the same for all alkaloid-producing plants, and for both both belladonna and coca plants as well, the Max Planck Institute researchers hypothesize that the enzymes involved in the syntheses of different compounds must also be different from each other. The results of the experiment proved the hypothesis true when it was found out that the enzyme that produced the atropine in belladonna proved to be “completely different” from the one that eventually produced cocaine in the coca plant. This enzyme, which is known as AKR or MecgoR, is involved in the biochemical pathway of the synthesis of cocaine by converting the keto group into an alcohol residue, which is actually the same role assumed by the SDR, or short-chain dehydrogenase reductase enzyme in belladonna (How Plants Make Cocaine, 2012). Thus, although there was a basically similar pathway for the production of atropine and cocaine in both species of plants, the very small difference in the nature and identity of the enzyme that catalyzes the keto group towards the end of the pathway is the main factor behind the fact that the coca plant is able to naturally synthesize cocaine, and not another alkaloid compound. Moreover, it is very interesting for the Max Plank Institute researchers to find out that the synthesis of atropine in belladonna takes place in the roots of the plant before the atropine is transported to the leaves, while the synthesis of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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