15-20 June 2014
Laurentian University / Université Laurentienne
America/Toronto timezone
Welcome to the 2014 CAP Congress! / Bienvenue au congrès de l'ACP 2014!

The Mysterious Role of Alkaloids in Plants Revealed by a Multidisciplinary Approach

20 Jun 2014, 09:15
FA-054+5+6 (Laurentian University / Université Laurentienne)


Laurentian University / Université Laurentienne

Sudbury, Ontario
Oral (Non-Student) / orale (non-étudiant) History of Physics / Histoire de la physique (DHP) (F1-2) History of Physics - DHP / Histoire de la physique - DHP


Dr Francesco Barletta (CMÉC-SEREX)


Alkaloids are nitrogenous compounds (heterocyclic amines) characterised by pronounced physiological activity mostly occurring in plants. Today, more than 12,000 alkaloids have been isolated since the discovery of morphine (1805). Systematic use of medicinal plant extracts containing alkaloids were made since antiquity with the aim of treating some ailments or as prescription drugs. Despite these interesting medical applications, the role of alkaloids in plants has been a longstanding question. Since the second-half of the 19th century, organic chemists proposed several theories to explain how plants are able to synthesise these highly-complex nitrogenous compounds whereas others, manly botanists and organic chemists from Europe, suggested some theories about their possible role in the kingdom of plants. Three theories were suggested: the “defense theory” (e.g., Pfeffer, 1897), the “waste theory” (Pictet, 1905), and the “hormone theory” (Ciamician and Ravenna, 1921). These theories reflected, at that time, the state of the art, in organic chemistry. However, only with the contributions of physics-based methods (X-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy), the development of molecular biology as well as plant cell culture technologies have the ecochemical role of these compounds been elucidated. Here we discuss and analyse both European and Canadian scientific contributions to the field of naturally-occurring products in plants.

Primary author

Dr Francesco Barletta (CMÉC-SEREX)


Ms Karine Viens (CMÉC) Dr Mounir Chaouch (SEREX)

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