Alkaloids from plants are characterised by structural diversity and bioactivity, and maintain a privileged position in both modern and traditional medicines. In recent years, there have been significant advances in elucidating the biosynthetic origins of plant alkaloids. In this review, I will describe the progress made in determining the metabolic origins of the so-called true alkaloids, specialised metabolites derived from amino acids containing a nitrogen heterocycle. By identifying key biosynthetic steps that feature in the majority of pathways, I highlight the key roles played by modifications to primary metabolism, iminium reactivity and spontaneous reactions in the molecular and evolutionary origins of these pathways.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author acknowledges support from a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (MR/S01862X/1).
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