Poppy yields the final secret to making morphine

Determining the last unknown step in the opiate chemical pathway came down to a single gene.

Science News, By Bethany Brookshire, June 25

The final puzzle piece in the chemical pathway that makes morphine has been identified, scientists report June 25 in Science. The work fills in the center piece in the path — the protein converting the compound (S)-reticuline to (R)-reticuline.

By analyzing poppy DNA and confirming its function in yeast, the researchers showed that a single gene produces an enzyme made of two parts, each of which controls a step of the conversion of reticuline.

This protein links the previously known beginning and end steps in the morphine-making pathway. Both the beginning and end steps have already been engineered in separate yeast strains. Putting the three parts of the pathway together will eventually result in yeast that produce morphine.

And maybe, just maybe, some really incredible poppy rolls.

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  • Gonna play hell with some economies based on drugs. Those Afghans gonna have to go back to growing cotton as they did when the Taliban crushed opium growing.

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