Alkaloids Essay

1985 Words 8 Pages
A. Alkaloids are the most diverse group of natural products that exist within living organisms (Hartmann, 1998). Alkaloids are a diverse group of low molecular weight; nitrogen-containing compounds mainly derived from amino acids, and are found in about 20% of plant species. Alkaloids play a very important role in organism metabolism and functional activity. They are metabolic products in plants, animals and microorganisms (Aniszewski, 2007). Due to their potent biological activity, many of the approximately 12,000 known alkaloids are used for certain physiological roles that can be both beneficial and detrimental to living organisms every day.
History of Alkaloids: When, How, and by Who? :
Alkaloids are noted to been used by humans
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An example of alkaloids being present in the seeds of a plant can be shown in the deciduous tree Nux vomica. The highly poisonous and bitter alkaloids strychnine and brucine are produced from the seeds inside the trees fruit also known as “poison nuts.” However these nuts are not to be confused for edible nuts due to the fact that the tree uses these to defend itself. The tree produces these alkaloids in order to defend itself from certain mammals by the poisonous effects it has on them by either breathing it in or through the absorption of the skin. If consumed by humans it can cause many negative side effects such as convulsions, difficulty breathing, and …show more content…
The consequence of this is the need for plants to develop strategies in order to fend off these herbivores so they can survive. Alkaloids act as defense mechanisms for plants from herbivores due to their bitter poisonous taste. Alkaloids can be created within the plant or endophytes can form symbiotic relationships with the plant to deter animals from feeding on it (Hartmann, 1998). Alkaloids tend to discourage predators with their heavy odors or bitter, poisonous taste. Plants like mint use their strong scent in order to keep potential predators away. Other alkaloids like caffeine can act as a plant defense against herbivores by causing excessive stimulation when consumed. Caffeine can also act as a defense mechanism against other plants. When high levels of caffeine are produced by coffee seedlings it can inhibit the germination of other seeds in the vicinity of the growing plants. This defense is used in competing for growing space and nutrient resources. (Boundless Biology Textbook. Boundless, 13 Apr.

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