Tracking down the formation of cardenolides in plants

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena are investigating the previously largely unknown biosynthetic pathway that leads to the formation of cardenolides in plants. In a study published in the journal Nature Plants, they present two enzymes from the CYP87A family as key enzymes that catalyze the formation of pregnenolone, the precursor for the biosynthesis of plant steroids, in two different plant families. The discovery of such enzymes should help to develop platforms for the cheap and sustainable production of high quality steroid compounds for medical use.