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Plant toxins that affect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors: A review

Benedict T. Green, Kevin D. Welch, Kip E. Panter, Stephen T. Lee
Chemical Research in Toxicology 2013 v.26 no.8 pp. 1129-1138
Conium maculatum, Delphinium, Lupinus, Nicotiana, alkaloids, chemical structure, cholinergic receptors, drugs, grazing, ingestion, livestock, molecular weight, oxalates, phytotoxins, poisonous plants, screening, secondary metabolites
Plants produce a wide variety of chemical compounds termed secondary metabolites that are not involved in basic metabolism, photosynthesis, or reproduction. These compounds are used as flavors, fragrances, insecticides, dyes, hallucinogens, nutritional supplements, poisons, and pharmaceutical agents. However, in some cases these secondary metabolites found in poisonous plants perturb biological systems. Ingestion of toxins from poisonous plants by grazing livestock often results in large economic losses to the livestock industry. The chemical structures of these compounds are diverse and range from simple, low molecular weight toxins such as oxalate in halogeton to the highly complex norditerpene alkaloids in larkspurs. While the negative effects of plant toxins on people and the impact of plant toxins on livestock producers have been widely publicized, the diversity of these toxins and their potential as new pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of diseases in people and animals has also received widespread interest. Scientists are actively screening plants from all regions of the world for bioactivity and potential pharmaceuticals for the treatment or prevention of many diseases. In this review, we focus the discussion to those plant toxins extensively studied at the USDA Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory that affect the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors including species of Delphinium (Larkspurs), Lupinus (Lupines), Conium (poison hemlock), and Nicotiana (tobaccos).