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Chemistry and Pharmacology of Naturally Occurring Bioactive Compounds

Chemistry and Pharmacology of Naturally Occurring Bioactive Compounds edited by Goutam Brahmachari. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2013. Hardcover, 584 pages. ISBN: 9781439891674. $149.95.

This title is of immense interest to researchers in the life sciences as well as many readers of HerbalGram. Nevertheless, the topic of naturally occurring bioactive compounds is immense and diverse. There are more than 125,000 unique natural products from more than 400,000 species of plants, algae, fungi, and marine organisms discussed in this book. Besides the biodiversity issue, the book has cross-cutting themes covering synthetic chemistry, biotechnology, and pharmacology. Although it would be impossible to provide comprehensive coverage, as the title suggests, the book does provide more than 550 pages of information in 21 chapters focused on various compounds or classes thereof. The authors are chiefly university- or research institute-based scientists from many countries, including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Japan, and the United States. The chapters are written in the style of scientific journal review articles, drawing in part from the authors’ own research.

The first chapter is an overview by the editor that summarizes the content of each chapter. The next six chapters focus primarily on chemical synthesis of analogs of natural compounds and structure-activity relationships. These include reviews describing the use of solid supports for the synthesis of complex natural and non-naturally occurring molecules (heterocycles), the synthesis of different beta-lactam analogs (antibiotics), synthetic pathways for the synthesis of isatin analogs (antituberculosis compounds), semisynthesis of carbamate natural products that may be used in anticancer drug design, production of new molecules of biological significance from phenolic constituents of tropical plants, and synthesis of two antitumor azoles from marine cyanobacteria.

Chapters 8 through 12 focus mainly on biological activity of naturally occurring compounds, including omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, photoprotective melanin-related compounds, oxyprenylated secondary metabolites, curcumin (a component of turmeric [Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae]) as a potential preventative of Alzheimer’s disease, and natural products as nitric oxide inhibitors. The next two chapters summarize investigations that were undertaken using crystallographic analysis approaches on sterols and xanthones, respectively.

Chapters 15 through 17 cover pharmacological studies of a promising anticancer agent known as gambogic acid (principally derived from the Garcinia hanburyi [Clusiaceae] tree in Southeast Asia), antidepressive agents, and statins for cholesterol control. Chapters 18 and 19 describe the molecular aspects of the biosynthesis of fungal polyketides and marine microalgae products. The final chapters report on biotechnologies such as rosmarinic acid (an antioxidant found in various plants such as rosemary [Rosmarinus officinalis, Lamiaceae] and basil [Ocimum basilicum, Lamiaceae]) production in plant cell culture, metabolic engineering approaches to producing other antioxidants (flavonoids, vitamin C and E, etc.), and the latest biotechnological approaches developed for the improvement of the production of diverse groups of secondary metabolites.

In summary, most chapters of the book are well founded scientifically, with descriptions of recent research advances. Its focus on drug development, pharmacology, biotechnology, and chemistry — with relatively few chapters describing traditional medicine uses, herbal products, and medicinal foods —suggests that the book will be of most interest to natural product researchers rather than herbal scientists. It will be a good reference for university students in advanced medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, or biopharmaceutical science programs.

—Antonio Guerrero-Analco Research Associate University of Ottawa, ON, Canada

—John Thor Arnason, PhD Professor of Biology Director Biopharmaceutical Sciences University of Ottawa, ON, Canada