PerspectivePlant Science

Plant Gene Clusters and Opiates

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Science  29 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6089, pp. 1648-1649
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225473

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Plant natural products have a profound impact on human health and are prime targets for drug development, but full realization of their clinical potential is often curtailed because these compounds are typically produced in small amounts in slow-growing plant species. Improving production levels is essential for bringing new plant compounds into the drug development pipeline, but such improvements demand an understanding of the fundamental biological processes underlying complex natural product synthesis in plants. On page 1704 of this issue, Winzer et al. (1) define genes encoding the biosynthetic pathway for noscapine, a medicinal alkaloid produced by opium poppy.