Published Jun 1, 2012


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Iván De-La-Cruz Chacón

Alma Rosa González-Esquinca

Christian Anabí Riley-Saldaña


The benzylisoquinoline alkaloids (BIA) are specialized metabolites with an ancient phylogenetic distribution, but still preserved in modern clades. Some of them, such as morphine, sanguinerine or berberine, are important for modern medicine. This review discusses the highlights of the current state of the biosynthesis of BIA. There have been studies that show the biosynthesis of 22 of these nitrogenous metabolites. In their formation there are 43 enzymes grouped into oxidoreductases, transferases and lyases, which in some cases represent atypical examples of the manner in which the secondary metabolism diversification was
originated. Two of these examples are the cytochrome proteins P450 (P450), with catalytic activities for ABI route, or the norcoclaurine synthase enzyme (NCS), which share substantial identity with defense allergenic proteins. Likewise, there are genetic advances that have produced the characterization of 30 enzymes, allowing knowledge of regulatory processes. Another interesting aspect is the compartmentation of the biosynthesis sites and accumulation of BIA, since in several cases they are spatially separated and in different species, or in the same species several types of cells may be involved. This has suggested intra and intercellular transport of alkaloids, precursors and enzymes, and it has been documented berberine transport between the cytoplasm and the vacuoles of storage. The picture for the biosynthesis of BIA has been constructed with exemplary studies of alkaloids with pharmacological importance.
Key words: specialized metabolism, secondary metabolism, cellular transport, cell compartment, tissue-specific regulation
How to Cite
De-La-Cruz Chacón, I., González-Esquinca, A. R., & Riley-Saldaña, C. A. (2012). Benzylisoquinoline alkaloid biosynthesis. Universitas Scientiarum, 17(2), 189–202.
Química / Chemistry / Química