Pharmacognosy - medicinal plants (herbs)

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Theme XVIII: Heterocycles


Introduction to heterocycles. Heterocyclic compounds. Chlorophyll, heme, plant hormones, nucleic acids. 

Introduction to heterocycles

The heterocyclic compounds are part of a large number of compounds of biological interest among which are:

Plant's chlorophyll
Heme group
Plant's hormones   and
Nucleic acids.

Chlorophyll is the source and basis of life, thanks to its unique power to use light energy from the sun to synthesize along with the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water, the organic compounds that are the raw material of all organisms. This process is known as photosynthesis.

Chlorophyll is constituted by a central core, bound to a magnesium atom called tetrapyrrole; the same nucleus is found again, but this time bound to an atom of iron in the hemoglobin of the blood, which plays an essential role in breathing.

This pyrrole nucleus is formed by four-membered rings of five atoms, one of which is different from carbon. These cyclic structures having in the ring at least one atom different from carbon are called heterocyclic compounds and the different atom is named heteroatom.

The heterocyclic rings of more interest in medicinal plants study are the pyrrole, furan, indole, purine and pyrimidine rings.

These last two are components of nucleic acids, decisively involved in the molecular mechanisms by which genetic information is stored, replicated and transcribed.

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