The Madagascar periwinkle Catharanthus roseus contains nearly 200 monoterpenoid indole alkaloids. It is the source of the chemotherapeutic dimeric alkaloid vinblastine. Vinblastine is formed when the Iboga-type indole alkaloid catharanthine is oxidatively coupled to the Aspidosperma-type indole alkaloid vindoline. Many research groups worldwide have investigated alkaloid formation in C. roseus, such that our understanding of this particular system is relatively advanced. Success in the isolation of cDNAs encoding both enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of strictosidine aglycone from primary metabolites and enzymes involved in the formation of vindoline from tabersonine warrants presentation of our current comprehension of alkaloid biosynthesis in C. roseus.
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