Journal of Undergraduate Research


secondary metabolite production, endophyte species, veratrum californicum


Life Sciences


Plant and Wildlife Sciences


Veratrum californicum, a montane perennial of Western America, is known to produce several bioactive alkaloids with teratogenic, antibiotic and antiproliferative propertiesi; the most notable is the anticancer compound cyclopamine.ii A synthetic derivative of cyclopamine had shown promise in clinical trials before the increasing production costs became prohibitory, effectively halting research.iii V. californicum’s unsuitability for agriculturalization, low cylopamine production (0.24% of roots), and the subsequent ineffective chemical synthesis steps (1% yield) have limited supplies.3,iv However, research has overlooked the potential for similar analog production by endophytes. Endophyte production represents a solution to the limited supply and troublesome growth characteristics of V. californicum. Endophytes are well-suited for mass production and maximizing yield. There is even potential for similar analogues to truncate the synthesis process. As demonstrated by the anticancer drug Taxol, the source of novel compound production in plants can be successfully traced back to endophytes within the host plant.v Furthermore, these endophytes are a likely source of additional undiscovered compounds. Historically, endophytes of a bioactive host plant have proven to be rich sources of novel compounds. When identified, these analogs have potential in various applications as fungicides, bactericides, pharmaceuticals, or otherwise. Finally, no previous research has investigated the vast source of endophytes within V. californicum. This represents an opportunity to discover previously unknown endophyte species.