Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic discovery unlocks biosynthesis of medicinal compound in poppy

Date:
May 31, 2012
Source:
University of York
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a complex gene cluster responsible for the synthesis of the medicinal compound noscapine.

Scientists at the University of York and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Australia have discovered a complex gene cluster responsible for the synthesis of the medicinal compound noscapine.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of York

Scientists at the University of York and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Australia have discovered a complex gene cluster responsible for the synthesis of the medicinal compound noscapine.

The discovery, published in the latest issue of Science, reveals that the pathway for synthesis of noscapine is controlled by a complex cluster of ten genes encoding five different enzyme classes. This is the most complex gene cluster ever found in plants. The discovery has revealed the previously unknown biochemical pathway for noscapine synthesis. It will also greatly accelerate the breeding of high-noscapine poppy varieties.

The breakthrough came when the scientists discovered that poppy varieties that produce noscapine express a number of genes that are absent in varieties that are noscapine free. They then analysed the inheritance pattern of these genes in hundreds of offspring from crosses between noscapine and no-noscapine varieties. When they saw that all of these genes are inherited together, they realised they could be looking at an incredibly complex gene cluster. The identity and arrangement of genes in the cluster was determined by cloning and DNA sequencing.

Professor Ian Graham, Director of the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York, said: “We were amazed to find that this gene cluster encodes for almost the entire biosynthetic pathway for noscapine. With this one discovery we have been able to produce an outline of the pathway and define a number of the steps involved - something that normally takes years.”

Noscapine has been used as a suppressant in cough mixtures for decades. More recently, it has been reported to have anti-cancer activity and is currently in early stage clinical trials. Noscapine was one of the first natural products to be chemically characterised almost 200 years ago. Until now, however, the pathway for production and the genes involved in its synthesis have not been identified.

Tim Bowser, Head of R&D for GSK Australia’s Opiates Division, said: “The fact that the genes are grouped in a cluster means that plant breeding becomes faster and easier. GSK are using this discovery to develop high yielding commercial noscapine poppies in order to establish a reliable route of supply.”

Commercial poppy farming traditionally involved lancing the seed capsule to release the latex from which medicinal alkaloids, including noscapine, could be extracted. Since the 1960s commercial industrial techniques have largely switched to large scale poppy harvesting and extraction focussed on other medicinal poppy alkaloids like morphine and thebaine used to manufacture pain medicines. This trend has developed at the expense of noscapine which until now was only available from traditional techniques. 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thilo Winzer, Valeria Gazda, Zhesi He, Filip Kaminski, Marcelo Kern, Tony R. Larson, Yi Li, Fergus Meade, Roxana Teodor, Fabián E. Vaistij, Carol Walker, Tim A. Bowser, and Ian A. Graham. A Papaver somniferum 10-Gene Cluster for Synthesis of the Anticancer Alkaloid Noscapine. Science, 31 May 2012 DOI: 10.1126/science.1220757

Cite This Page:

University of York. "Genetic discovery unlocks biosynthesis of medicinal compound in poppy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102111.htm>.
University of York. (2012, May 31). Genetic discovery unlocks biosynthesis of medicinal compound in poppy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102111.htm
University of York. "Genetic discovery unlocks biosynthesis of medicinal compound in poppy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102111.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — The respiratory virus Enterovirus D68, which targets children, has spread from the Midwest to 21 states. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contagious Respiratory Illness Continues to Spread Across U.S.

Contagious Respiratory Illness Continues to Spread Across U.S.

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 12, 2014) — Hundreds of children in several states have been stricken by a serious respiratory illness that is spreading across the U.S. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Batters Sierra Leone Economy Too

Ebola Batters Sierra Leone Economy Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 12, 2014) — The World Health Organisation warns that local health workers in West Africa can't keep up with Ebola - and among those countries hardest hit by the outbreak, the economic damage is coming into focus, too. As David Pollard reports, Sierra Leone admits that growth in one of the poorest economies in the region is taking a beating. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins