Biosynthesis

Building psychoactives with purpose

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Science  30 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6456, pp. 879-880
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6456.879-d

Plants are skilled, if unwitting, organic chemists that produce a panoply of natural products that influence human biochemistry and cognition. Farrow et al. identified a suite of enzymes in the iboga plant, Tabernanthe iboga, that produce (−)-ibogaine from a complex precursor alkaloid. The carbon scaffold is rearranged in a series of steps that follow or mirror the synthesis of (+)-catharanthine, an intermediate in the formation of the anticancer drug vinblastine. Knowledge of their biosynthetic pathways may stimulate research into the psychoactive properties of iboga alkaloids, including potential antiaddictive activities.

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 141, 12979 (2019).

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