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Q Rev Biol. 1977 Jun;52(2):155-78.

The biological effects and mode of action of L-canavanine, a structural analogue of L-arginine.


Many of the 200 or so non-protein amino acids synthesized by higher plants are related structurally to the constituents of common proteins. L-Canavanine, the guanidinooxy structural analogue of L-arginine, is representative of this group. It has provided valuable insight into the biological effects and the mode of action of non-protein amino acids which acts as analogues of the protein amino acids. The arginyl-tRNA synthetases of numerous canavanine-free species charge canavanine, and canavanine is subsequently incorporated into the nascent polypeptide chain. Production of canavanine-containing proteins ultimately can disrupt critical reactions of RNA and DNA metabolism as well as protein synthesis. Canavanine also affects regulatory and catalytic reactions of arginine metabolism, arginine uptake, formation of structural components, and other cellular precesses. In these ways, canavanine alters essential biochemical reactions and becomes a potent antimetabolite of arginine in a wide spectrum of species. These deleterious properties of canavanine render it a highly toxic secondary plant constituent that probably functions as an allelochemic agent that deters the feeding activity of phytophagous insects and other herbivores.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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