February 24, 2010
Progesterone Discovered In A Plant
In a finding that overturns conventional wisdom, scientists are reporting the first discovery of the female sex hormone progesterone in a plant. Until now, scientists thought that only animals could make progesterone. A steroid hormone, secreted by the ovaries, progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy and maintains pregnancy. A synthetic version, progestin, is used in birth control pills and other medications. The discovery is reported in ACS' Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication.
"The significance of the unequivocal identification of progesterone cannot be overstated," the article, by Guido F. Pauli and colleagues, states. "While the biological role of progesterone has been extensively studied in mammals, the reason for its presence in plants is less apparent." They speculate that the hormone, like other steroid hormones, might be an ancient bioregulator that evolved billions of years ago, before the appearance of modern plants and animals. The new discovery may change scientific understanding of the evolution and function of progesterone in living things.
Image Caption: Leaves of the walnut tree contain progesterone, the female sex hormone, discovered for the first time in a plant. Credit: iStock
On the Net:
- American Chemical Society
- Article: Occurrence of Progesterone and Related Animal Steroids in Two Higher Plants