In the tropics, carnivorous plants trap unsuspecting prey in a cavity filled with liquid known as a "pitcher."
The moment insects like flies, ants and beetles fall into a pitcher, the plant's enzymes are activated and begin dissolving their new meal, obtaining nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen which are difficult to extract from certain soils. Carnivorous plants also possess a highly developed set of compounds and secondary metabolites to aid in their survival.
These compounds could serve as a new class of anti-fungal drugs for use in human medicine, says Prof. Aviah Zilberstein of Tel Aviv University's Department of Plant Sciences. In a study conducted together with Dr. Haviva Eilenberg from her lab, Prof. Esther Segal from the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Prof. Shmuel Carmeli from the School of Chemistry, the unusual components from the plants’ pitchers were found effective as anti-fungal drugs against human fungal infections widespread in hospitals. The primary results are encouraging.
"To avoid sharing precious food resources with other micro-organisms such as fungi, the carnivorous plant has developed a host of agents that act as natural anti-fungal agents," says Prof. Zilberstein. "In the natural habitat of the tropics, competition for food is fierce, and the hot, moist environment is perfect for fungi, which would also love to eat the plant's insect meal."
Highly resistant and 100% organic
After initial tests of the plant proteins and enzymes that dissolve the chitin of fungi, Prof. Zilberstein assumes that, in the right clinical conditions, the pitcher secondary metabolites can be developed to effective anti-fungal drugs, that may avoid the evolution of new resistant infective strains.
The collaborating team has just published a paper exploring that potential in the Journal of Experimental Biology, based on the biology of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes khasiana. This plant species is originally found in India but is also being reared in Tel Aviv University greenhouses.
Currently there is a need for additional broadly effective anti-fungal drugs. Even mildly severe forms of athlete's foot or other skin fungal infections lack effective treatments. The problem becomes more dire at hospitals, where thousands of Americans die each year from secondary fungal infections they acquire during their stay as patients.
Forging a “wild” pathway in drug discovery
The collaborating team has determined plant secondary metabolites that function as anti-fungal agents. "The pitcher of the carnivorous plant produces these compounds in a gland," says Prof. Zilberstein. Until now, no one has published or discussed the anti-fungal metabolites found in the trap liquid of this plant, she says.
"We're hoping that these metabolites are working together to keep fungus at bay. Our aim now is to get funding for pre-clinical tests of these compounds in an animal model, so we can investigate their effectiveness against the two very acute fungal pathogens found in hospitals worldwide," she says.
The idea that liquid from a plant pitcher could stave off infection has been documented in the folk literature of India, where people drink carnivorous plant pitcher juice as a general elixir. "There is a lot of room for developing compounds from nature into new drugs," says Prof. Zilberstein. "The one we are working on is not toxic to humans. Now we hope to show how this very natural product can be further developed as a means to overcome some basic problems in hospitals all over the world."
George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Information Technology
05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences