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, 68 (22-24), 2973-85

Phytochemicals: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?


Phytochemicals: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

Russell J Molyneux et al. Phytochemistry.


Phytochemicals are constitutive metabolites that enable plants to overcome temporary or continuous threats integral to their environment, while also controlling essential functions of growth and reproduction. All of these roles are generally advantageous to the producing organisms but the inherent biological activity of such constituents often causes dramatic adverse consequences in other organisms that may be exposed to them. Nevertheless, such effects may be the essential indicator of desirable properties, such as therapeutic potential, especially when the mechanism of bioactivity can be delineated. Careful observation of cause and effect, followed by a coordinated approach to identify the responsible entities, has proved extremely fruitful in discovering roles for phytochemical constituents. The process is illustrated by selected examples of plants poisonous to animals and include the steroidal alkaloid toxin of Veratrum californicum (Western false hellebore), piperidine alkaloids of Lupinus species (lupines), and polyhydroxy indolizidine, pyrrolizidine and nortropane alkaloids of Astragalus and Oxytropis species (locoweeds), Castanospermum australe (Moreton Bay chestnut) and Ipomoea species (morning glories).

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