Date: 26 Feb 2010

Biosynthesis and Regulation of Alkaloids

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Abstract

Alkaloids constitute a very chemically diverse group of plant natural products. These molecules, of which about 12,000 have been identified, share the common presence of a nitrogen atom in a heterocyclic ring. Because of their toxicity, many alkaloids are used for human health benefit. This review presents recent progresses in the elucidation of the biosynthetic pathways of four major classes of alkaloids—monoterpene indole alkaloids (MIA), benzylisoquinoline alkaloids (BIA), tropane and nicotine alkaloids (TNA) and purine alkaloids (PA)—and in the understanding of the regulatory processes involved. Three main approaches are discussed, namely the complex spatial organisation of some of these biosynthetic pathways, the crystallisation and modelling of some of the biosynthetic enzymes, and the transcription factor regulatory networks involved in alkaloid biosynthesis. Some applications of these discoveries for metabolic engineering strategies are also presented.