Understanding The Nature Of Natural Products

by Auguste
Organic Chemistry And Natural Products

If you are an organic chemist, then you probably know that living organisms usually produce natural products. The definition of the whole process entails different elements already discussed in our previous series, including proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, as well as carbohydrates.

These elements play an essential role in enhancing metabolic reactions. But, other additional organic compounds are produced naturally. Some are extraordinary. These are, however, not metabolites.

Organic chemists are also often fascinated by the diversity of different substances, especially the ones that can be easily isolated from the plants and those produced by various microorganisms. Most of these compounds, including alkaloids as well as mold metabolites, do not have distinct metabolic functions.  

Some compounds or elements can also be formed or created from a metabolic accident or synthetic machinery of the actual cellular enzymes. Other than the utility of the parent organism, the value of these products, known as drugs, herbs, and dyes, can be disputed.

Understanding The Classification Of Different Natural Products

As with any other field of study in organic chemistry, there are different ways of categorizing natural products. They can be grouped depending on the recurring structural features. For instance, there could be oxygenated derivatives of aromatic structures. Also, there may be alkaloids which have an indole ring. These elements are often referred to as indole alkaloids.

The products are also be categorized according to the plant sources. These could be morphine and codeine.  

Other examples include opium alkaloids. Some products may also be categorized by the psychological impacts they have on people or, better yet, the similarities found in the route they were synthesized by. Typically, the biosynthetic classifications of these products make it possible for chemists to organize products.

Chemists have this compelling curiosity to find out what compounds nature offers. But they also garner vital information which is necessary when it comes to isolating various compounds from their actual natural source.  

At the same time, this should be noted as an easy task, mainly when the element of interest, in this case, is viably present at medium concentrations, including the enormous quantities of materials that are needed to extract microorganisms of the required products. In such circumstances, there will be a high degree of technology and skills required not just in isolation but investigations to find out the actual chemical structure of the products.  

Final Thoughts

One more objective is actually the total production of the compound from different smaller molecules. In the classical approach to various structural matters and determination, there was an actual structure that was assigned to the natural product via chemical degradation to a smaller yet identifiable molecule.

But the assigned structure was not really regarded as confirmed until the element was synthesized and then finally shown to be identical in composition and conformation with the identifiable compound. The approach herein profoundly impacts the modern methods and strategies of separation coupled with the analysis, which makes it possible to determine the structure beyond a reasonable doubt.

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