Identification of Fungistatic Compounds in the Seeds of Phytolacca rivinoides, A Costa Rican Cloud Forest Plant
Dr. K. Gregory Murray, Hope College
Dr. Michael Short, Hope College
Seeds possess a diverse array of adaptations to protect their viability until favorable conditions arise for germination. In species that must spend long periods of dormancy in the seed bank of tropical soils, these adaptations often include chemical defense to ward off fungal pathogens. The Murray lab at Hope College has studied the biology of pioneer plants at Monteverde, Costa Rica for many years, and more recently in collaboration with chemists William Mungall and Michael Short has begun to focus on the chemicals that enable pioneer seeds to survive for tens to hundreds of years. My work focuses on Phytolacca rivinoides, the seeds of which accumulate in the soil to densities more than an order of magnitude greater than that of annual seed input. Using a combination of separation and identification techniques, and guided by poisoned-medium fungal bioassays, I have isolated three toxic compounds and have begun the process of elucidating their chemical structure. The crude extracts containing the three compounds have shown 95% fungal inhibition in proportion to the control at a concentration of 5 mg/mL. These compounds may have potential as anti-fungal drugs to treat patients who are immunocompromized, and are therefore susceptible to opportunistic fungal infections.
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