Washington: In a finding that may change
scientific understanding of the evolution of female sex
hormone `progesterone`, scientists have claimed to have found
the hormone in a plant.
Until now, scientists thought that only animals could
make progesterone -- a steroid hormone secreted by the ovaries
-- which prepares the uterus for pregnancy and maintains it. A
synthetic version, progestin, is used in birth control pills
and other medications.
"The significance of the unequivocal identification of
progesterone cannot be overstated," said the study by a team
led by Guido F Pauli at the College of Pharmacy, Chicago.
"While the biological role of progesterone has been
extensively studied in mammals, the reason for its presence in
plants is less apparent," it said.
Though scientists had previously identified progesterone
like substances in plants and speculated that the hormone
itself could exist in plants, they had not found the actual
hormone in plants until now.
Pauli and his colleagues used two powerful laboratory
techniques, nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectroscopy,
to detect progesterone in leaves of the Common Walnut, or
English Walnut, tree.
They also identified five new progesterone-related
steroids in a plant belonging to the buttercup family.
Following the discovery, published in ACS Journal of
Natural Products, the scientists believe the hormone, like
other steroid hormones, might be an ancient bio regulator that
evolved billions of years ago, before the appearance of modern
plants and animals.
First Published: Friday, February 5, 2010, 20:39