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Diterpenes of Flowering Plants: Compositae (Asteraceae).
by F. Seaman, F. Bohlmann, C. Zdero, and T. J. Mabry. 1990. Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 44 Hartz Way, Secaucus, NJ 07096-2491. Hardcover. 638 pp. $119.00. ISBN 0-387-97058-4.

This book is a collaboration between authors from The University of Texas College of Pharmacy and Department of Botany and two researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry, Technical University, in Berlin, Germany. The book is designed primarily for chemists and phytochemists and limits itself to some 1,200 chemical structures of the diterpene group found in approximately 550 species in the Asteraceae (aster or sunflower family). The book consists primarily of chemical structures and tables.

This volume constitutes the first attempt to review the chemistry of the diterpene chemistry of this economically important family of plants. Terpenes constitute a wide variety of economically important compounds that characterize the biological activity of many Composite plants. In the introduction, the authors cite five specific goals for this work. One, to provide a useful reference to "guide terpenoid chemists to the literature of known compounds." The second goal was to organize chemical structure information into a classification scheme that groups compounds by "biogenetic homology," (i.e., grouping compounds with a common chemical origin or ancestry).

The third goal was to compare the distribution of diterpenes to the botanical classification scheme that is used in organizing the Composite family into its subfamilies, tribes, subtribes, genera, etc., and to seek chemical distribution patterns that paralleled the boundaries established by plant taxonomists. Four, the authors wanted to critically review the quality of published papers on the structure elucidation of these diterpene compounds.

Five, and finally, the authors wanted to develop the diterpene computer database from which various tables and relationships could be extracted.

Consequently, the first third of the book consists of three lengthy tables and the latter part a series of structures based on a uniform number assigned for each compound. This work is obviously intended for chemists, research libraries, and R&D; departments of pharmaceutical companies, among others, and yet it represents an important systemitized collection of data.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.