Shikimic acid and its role in the formation of aromatic amino acids, benzoic acids, and cinnamic acids is described, along with further modifications leading to lignans and lignin, phenylpropenes, and coumarins. Combinations of the shikimate pathway and the acetate pathway are responsible for the biosynthesis of styrylpyrones, flavonoids and stilbenes, flavonolignans, and isoflavonoids. Terpenoid quinones are formed by a combination of the shikimate pathway with the terpenoid pathway. Monograph topics giving more detailed information on medicinal agents include folic acid, chloramphenicol, podophyllum, volatile oils, dicoumarol and warfarin, psoralens, kava, Silybum marianum, phyto-oestrogens, derris and lonchocarpus, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
The shikimate pathway provides an alternative route to aromatic compounds, particularly the aromatic amino acids L-phenylalanine, L-tyrosine and L-tryptophan. This pathway is employed by microorganisms and plants, but not by animals, and accordingly the aromatic amino acids feature among those essential amino acids for man which have to be obtained in the diet. A central intermediate in the pathway is shikimic acid (Figure 4.1), a compound which had been isolated from plants of Illicium species (Japanese 'shikimi') many years before its role in metabolism had been discovered. Most of the intermediates in the pathway were identified by a careful study of a series of Escherichia coli mutants prepared by UV irradiation. Their nutritional requirements for growth, and any by-products formed, were then characterized. A mutant strain capable of growth usually differs from its parent in only a single gene, and the usual effect is the impaired synthesis of a single enzyme. Typically, a mutant blocked in the transformation of compound A into compound B will require B for growth whilst accumulating A in its culture medium. In this way, the pathway from phosphoenolpyruvate (from glycolysis) and D-erythrose 4-phosphate (from the pentose phosphate cycle) to the aromatic amino acids was broadly outlined. Phenylalanine and tyrosine form the basis of C6C3 phenylpropane units found in many natural products, e.g. cin-namic acids, coumarins, lignans, and flavonoids, and along with tryptophan are precursors of a wide range of alkaloid structures. In addition, it is found that many simple benzoic acid derivatives, e.g. gallic acid (Figure 4.1) and p-aminobenzoic acid (4-aminobenzoic acid) (Figure 4.4) are produced via branchpoints in the shikimate pathway.
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