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October 04, 2007

How basil gets its zing

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the University of Michigan are unlocking the aromatic secrets of Basil essential oils, as reported on Brightsurf.com. They've isolated an enzyme (Eugenol Synthase) that "takes a basic building block [lignin] that is usually employed to make wood" and instead makes Eugenol, a primary ingredient in Basil essential oil. The scientists are going beyond earlier genetic studies and getting back to chemistry--identifying the chemical mechanisms that are used by plants to make the secondary metabolites. In the study reported on (available via Open Access from PLoS), they have determined the structure of the enzyme by protein x-ray crystallography.

REFERENCE: Louie GV, Baiga TJ, Bowman ME, Koeduka T, Taylor JH, et al. (2007) Structure and Reaction Mechanism of Basil Eugenol Synthase. PLoS ONE 2(10): e993 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000993

Posted by Rob on October 4, 2007 in Biology, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Research | Permalink

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