Pseudoalkaloids

Pseudoalkaloids are compounds, the basic carbon skeletons of which are not derived from amino acids31. In reality, pseudoalkaloids are connected with amino

Pinidine

Pinidine

Pinidine From Pinus Penderosa
Figure 6. An example of a pseudoalkaloid. Acetate-derived alkaloid pinidine is extracted from the Pinus species, for example, from Pinus penderosa. (Photo: T. Aniszewski). Pinidine has antimicrobial activity.

acid pathways. They are derived from the precursors or postcursors (derivatives the indegradation process) of amino acids. They can also result from the amination and transamination reactions32 of the different pathways connected with precursors or postcursors of amino acids.

These alkaloids can also be derived from non-aminoacid precursors. The N atom is inserted into the molecule at a relatively late stage, for example, in the case of steroidal or terpenoid skeletons. Certainly, the N atom can also be donated by an amino acid source across a transamination reaction, if there is a suitable aldehyde or ketone. Pseudoalkaloids can be acetate and phenylalanine-derived or terpenoid, as well as steroidal alkaloids. Examples of pseudoalkaloids include such compounds as coniine, capsaicin, ephedrine, solanidine, caffeine, theobromine and pinidine (Figure 6). More examples appear in Table 1.

2. Occurrence in nature

Alkaloids are substances very well known for their biological activity at the beginning of world civilization. They were used in shamanism, in traditional herbal medicine for the cure of diseases and in weapons as toxins during tribal wars and during hunting. They also had, and still have, socio-cultural and personal significance in ethnobotany34. Moreover, they have been and continue to be the object of human interest concerning new possibilities for their safe utilization and ensuing health benefits. Of all secondary compounds, historically and

Figure 7. The raw extraction of quinolizidine alkaloids from different lupine species in the Research and Teaching Laboratory of Applied Botany of the University of Joensuu (Photo: T. Aniszewski). Observe the different colours of the raw extracts, which signifies different concentrations of alkaloids in different species.

Figure 7. The raw extraction of quinolizidine alkaloids from different lupine species in the Research and Teaching Laboratory of Applied Botany of the University of Joensuu (Photo: T. Aniszewski). Observe the different colours of the raw extracts, which signifies different concentrations of alkaloids in different species.

contemporaneously, only alkaloids are molecules of natural origin with highly important benefits and diagnostic uses. They can be characterized as the most useful and also the most dangerous products of nature. They can be extracted and purified (Figure 7).

Alkaloids are most abundant in higher plants. At least 25% of higher plants contain these molecules. In effect this means that on average, at least one in fourth plants contains some alkaloids. In reality, it is not impossible that alkaloids occur more commonly. Using the latest equipment and technology, such slight traces of alkaloids may be detected (e.g., less than 10 gigagrams per kg of plant mass) that these have no real influence on biological receptors and activity. Generally these species are not considered as alkaloid species. Hegnauer1213 has defined alkaloid plants as those species which contain more than 0.01% of alkaloids. This is right from the point of view of the classification. From the genetic point of view, and the genetic mechanism of alkaloid synthesis, it is a real limitation. Paying attention to slight traces of alkaloids in plants, we see the members of the plant family which are relatives. They have a genetically determined alkaloid mechanism with a species expression. Moreover, this expression is also on the hybrid level59.

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