Scientists Unveil Pathways for Biosynthesis of Noscapine

Scientists at the University of York and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Australia have discovered a complex gene cluster leading to the synthesis of the medicinal compound noscapine. Noscapine, a compound usually derived from the family of plants Papaveraceae like poppy is currently used as a suppresant in cough mixtures for decades and it has been claimed recently to have anti-cancer activity. It was one of the first natural products to be chemically characterized almost 200 years ago but the pathway for production and the genes involved in its synthesis was identified only recently.

Ian Graham, director of the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York said that the discovery will enable them to produce an outline of the pathway and define a number of processes involved which usually takes years. Tim Browser, head of R&D for GSK Australia's Opiates Division said that the discovery is a breakthrough for faster and easier plant breeding given the fact that the genes are grouped in a cluster and this will be used to develop high yielding commercial noscapine poppies in order to establish a reliable route of supply.

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This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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