Nature's Chemicals: The Natural Products that Shaped Our World
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Natural Products (NPs) is the term used to describe the hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds or substances that are continually produced by living organisms (plants and microbes). Hundreds of millions of tons of these chemicals are generated annually, and the trade in just a few of these has dominated human economic activity for thousands of years. Indeed the current world geopolitical map has been shaped by attempts to control the supply of a few of these compounds. Every day of our lives each human spends time and money trying to procure the NPs of their choice. However, despite their overwhelming influence on human culture, they remain poorly understood. Yet a knowledge of NPs can help in our search for new drugs, further the debate about GM manipulation, help us address environmental pollution, and enable a better understanding of drug trafficking.
Nature's Chemicals is the first book to describe Natural Products (NPs) in an evolutionary context, distilling the few simple principles that govern the way in which organisms (including humans) have evolved to produce, cope with, or respond to NPs. It neatly synthesizes a widely dispersed literature and provides a general picture of NPs, encompassing evolution, history, ecology, and environmental issues (along with some deeper theory relevant to biochemistry), with the goal of enabling a wider section of the scientific community to fully appreciate the crucial importance of Natural Products to human culture and future survival.
limited opportunity to cope with toxic substances by dilution (the basic mechanism common to organisms with an excretion system with a route to isolating the excreted material or excreting it into a large volume of water). This thought leads to the idea that maybe evolutionary arguments about the role of individual NPs in The Chemical Interactions between Organisms 179 microbes are too narrow and inappropriately focused. It might be more productive to think about the advantages that the
about the properties of some NPs that had notable effects (often published in specialised medical journals or cell biology journals). Towards the end of the twentieth century, this fragmentation actually increased as more biologists took an interest in NPs but they tended to publish their work in even more specialist journals, journals often targeted at even smaller groups.1 However, in this chapter, we shall leave the wealth of detail in the background and try to show how the few people thinking
chemical tested in isolation and the Laws of Mass Action will apply to each chemical interacting with the protein with which it interacts. There are other such scenarios that can be proposed. Evidence exists for both additive and synergistic actions.29 There is nothing magical about mixtures. The effects of mixtures can be explained in terms of the actions of the individual chemicals, all of which obey the usual physicochemical laws.30 So how do these arguments apply to the evolution of NPs?
Chapter 7 for further information on the developments of Ehrlich’s ideas and the pharmaceutical industry). It was to take decades before Ehrlich’s ideas on selective toxicity were to inﬂuence the growing agrochemical and veterinary industries. By the 1930s, however, a number of companies soon found synthetic chemicals that would selectively kill plant pathogenic fungi or would control the insect pests of plants and animals. The 1930s was also the period of discovery of some extremely highly
different insect species but most insects will simply visit en route for some other destination and have no meaningful interaction with the majority of plant species they encounter because many insect species are specialists that have no interest in any organism other than the few they have evolved to interact with. A cabbage white butterﬂy ﬂitting around the garden is not enjoying the scents or ﬂavours of all the plants it encounters; it is simply seeking brassica plants in what must seem to it