Introduction to Natural Products Chemistry-CHU 3130
The term "natural products" refers to the organic compounds found in various animals, plants, fungi, or micro-organisms. Some of these compounds are common to many different organisms, while others are found in only a few species. Among these compounds are terpenoids such as limonene, the active compound found in orange or lemon peel, steroids such as cholesterol, alkaloids such as caffeine, cocaine, or morphine, various phenolic compounds, plant pigments, etc. They perform various functions in nature, and many of them have interesting and useful biological activity. For example, many of them have medicinal properties. The study of these compounds has been a major focus of organic chemistry ever since its very inception as a discipline. In fact, we may say that the importance of natural products goes back to well before chemistry was a recognised scientific discipline, judging by their widespread use in various systems of herbal medicine, including Ayurvedic medicine in Sri Lanka.
This course seeks to give students a good grounding in the basic principles underlying the study of natural products, including their classification, occurrence, methods of isolation and structural identification, biological activity, and biosynthesis. Three important classes of natural products are also studied in detail, namely terpenoids, steroids, and polyketides (i.e., compounds formed in nature via a pathway known as the polyketide pathway). The course will stress the practical applications of the Organic Chemistry which they have learned previously, prepare students for more advanced courses in this field, and make them better qualified for careers in the growing industrial sector in Sri Lanka that deals with the utilisation of local natural products.
This course and its equel, CHU 3131 (The Chemistry of Sugars, Amino-acids, and Related Compounds) do not have practical components. To ensure that students acquire an appropriate knowledge of laboratory techniques, as well as an adequate command of relevant areas of Organic Chemistry, they are required to co-register or have eligibility in CHU 3126 (Organic Chemistry II).