Isolation and identification of higher plant agents active in antimutagenic assay systems: Glycyrrhiza glabra

Author(s): Mitscher LA, Drake S, Gollapudi SR, Harris JA, Shankel DM


The reproduction and maintenance of identity of species are biological imperatives, and it is not surprising that there exist mechanisms to minimize or repair the deleterious influence of noxious chemicals in the environment on DNA. Animals tend to defend themselves through the use of enzymes which intercept aggressive chemicals and convert them to less dangerous substances. Animal cells also contain a variety of preformed smaller molecular weight chemicals which can react with oxidized species and free radicals and convert them to less virulent electrophiles (1). It is now becoming clear that higher plants also contain a variety of preformed secondary metabolites which represent a structurally diverse array of antimutagenic and desmutagenic compounds (6). Many, but not all, would appear to be enzyme inhibitors or antioxidants. Since a number of plant constitu-ents are mutagenic (18), it seems reasonable that higher plants should also contain molecules capable of antimutagenicity so as to survive the effects of their own metabolism. Study of such substances has the potential of revealing much interesting molecular detail about the processes of mutagenesis and antimutagenesis. A rather more distant hope is that such substances might be safe enough to provide protection for individuals perceived to be at risk. This would appear to be the case with a number of minor anticarcinogenic constituents consumed as part of our diet (4, 20).

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