Chemistry

Allergenic Terpenoids

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Science  24 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6097, pp. 893
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6097.893-c

Common ragweed is native to North America but has become widespread in most temperate regions around the world. It can cause strong allergic reactions in people with hay fever, including severe irritation of the airways; however, little is known about the secondary metabolites from this plant and their involvement in the allergic response. Taglialatela-Scafati et al. have analyzed the composition of the aerial parts of common ragweed collected from an urban environment in the outskirts of Novara, Italy. Common ragweed samples collected only 100 m away from each other had different phytochemical profiles, illustrating the heterogeneity of the European populations of this plant. Along with numerous known compounds, the authors discovered eight unknown sesquiterpenoids and show that these compounds are activators of TRPA1, a sensor that is a major player in the induction of inflammatory pathologies of the airways. Samples of common ragweed pollen were too small to allow the identification of specific constituents, but the chemical characteristics of the pollen extract suggest that the pollen also contains these secondary metabolites. Low-molecular terpenoids may thus play a role in the allergic response to common ragweed.

Eur. J. Org. Chem. 10.1002/ejoc.201200650 (2012).

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