Just like humans, plants can get bacterial infections. These infections can negatively affect yield and quality of fruits and trees. Although some compounds have been developed to protect plants, few of them work on a wide variety of crops. Also, bacteria are constantly developing new resistances. Now, researchers reporting in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have modified natural plant alkaloids into new compounds that kill bacteria responsible for diseases in rice, kiwi and citrus.
Scientists are trying to find new compounds that attack bacteria in different ways, reducing the chances that the microbes will develop resistance. Plant compounds called tetrahydro-β-carboline (THC) alkaloids are known to have antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antioxidant and antiviral activities. So, Pei-Yi Wang, Song Yang and colleagues wondered whether derivatives of THC alkaloids could help fight plant bacterial diseases.
The researchers used a THC alkaloid called eleagnine, which is produced by Russian olive trees and some other plants, as a scaffold. To this framework, they added different chemical groups to make a series of new compounds, two of which efficiently killed three strains of plant pathogenic bacteria in liquid cultures. The team then tested the two compounds on rice, kiwi and citrus plant twigs and leaves and found that the new alkaloids could both prevent and treat bacterial infections.