Plant Science

Unlocking artemisinin's biosynthetic secrets

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Science  14 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6249, pp. 702-703
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6249.702-f

The malaria drug artemisinin is isolated from Artemisia annua plants

PHOTO: © MANFRED RUCKSZIO/ALAMY

The emergence of drug-resistant parasites presents a major barrier to controlling human malaria. Artemisinin is the recommended first-line treatment for uncomplicated mal aria, but demand outstrips drugmakers' ability to cultivate the source, the Chinese herb Artemisia annua. A better understanding of the biosynthetic pathway could enhance scientists' ability to produce artemisinin from yeast, increasing the drug's availability. Bryant et al. explored the proteome of artemisinin-producing hairs stripped off the plant, cross-matching with genomic information to identify proteins. Key to the final steps of artemisinin biosynthesis may be enzymes like cyclophilins and peroxidases, hinting that steps that can proceed nonenzymatically may nonetheless get an enzymatic turbo-boost.

BMC Plant Biol. 15, 175 (2015).

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