Investigation of widespread bald-eagle deaths



Scientists were able to synthesize the eagle-killer venom.





The nerve toxin AETX is threatening the American heraldic animal.


The discovery of toxic natural substance Aetocthonotoxin in March attracted a lot of media attention. Halle University pharmacists proved that this substance is responsible for mass species extinctions in the United States bald eagles, and other birds-of-prey. Natural product chemists from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry have created a new way to synthesize aetocthonotoxin. This will allow for the production of the novel toxin at sufficient levels to permit more detailed studies on its biological activity as well as its effect on human health.

Aetocthonotoxin, or AETX, is an alkaloid with a number of structural peculiarities that are rarer than other natural products. This substance has several ring structures to which five bromine-atoms are attached. Professor Bernhard Westermann, the study director, stated that "Creating complex compounds in a test tube" is a significant challenge for synthetic chemists. AETX was able to overcome all such obstacles, despite only five steps involved in the synthesis of the toxin. The design skills of the participating scientists from IPB/MLU is a testament to their expertise.



Alkaloids are a group that includes plant secondary metabolites with great structural diversity. They often contain several carbon rings, each containing at least one nitrogen atom. Many are very bitter-tasting and poisonous. Many alkaloid-bearing plants like belladonna and the opium poppy have been used for medicinal purposes over many years. In addition, Halle is home to the patron saint for alkaloids: Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Meissner (the owner of the Lowenapotheke), who in 1819 coined the term "alkaloid".

Since 1958 when it was established, the IPB has been researching the biosynthesis and synthesis of key alkaloid substances like morphine and cocaine. Kurt Mothes, the Founding Director and President of Leopoldina, invited scientists from all around the globe to Halle in order to create a forum to discuss this fascinating substance group. In 1960, 1964, and 1969, the International Conferences on the Biochemistry and Physiology of Alkaloids took place in the city. The institute's history of alkaloid research is being consolidated by the IPB natural product chemists who use AETX synthesis. New applications are possible now that the active ingredient can be synthesized. Because: The difference between medicine and poison is often almost imperceptible. Chemical modifications allow for the production of AETX compounds that have desirable pharmacological characteristics.

Background: AETX is made from the Aekthonotoxin hydroillicolacyanobacterium. It is found on the leaves and stems of Hydrilla verticillata, a freshwater plant that has invaded North America. The toxin travels up the food chain from herbivores like snails and waterfowl to birds of prey like eagles or kites. Vacuolar myelinopathy, a fatal neurodegenerative disease previously unknown to humans, is triggered in the bald eagle by the substance. A breakdown of the insulating layers of myelin around the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal chord is the sign of this disease. It is not known if the toxin can also cause damage 

Investigation of widespread bald-eagle deaths Reviewed by Bedliner Review on July 20, 2021 Rating: 5

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