Issue Date: January 14, 2008
Long Ago, Paris Was A Jungle
Modern-day Paris may have a reputation as being something of an urban jungle, but according to some new chemical evidence, tens of millions of years ago Paris was quite literally a jungle. Akino Jossang of Paris' National Museum of Natural History and colleagues did some detective work on a 55 million-year-old amber deposit found in the Oise River area of the Paris Basin. In extracts of the amber, they found a novel diterpene natural product (shown) that they named quesnoin (J. Org. Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jo701544k). The researchers noted quesnoin's structural similarity to isoozic acid, a natural product isolated from tropical trees in the genus Hymenaea. Jossang's group suggests that quesnoin forms from isoozic acid via a Diels-Alder reaction initiated by a peroxy radical. If this theory is true, Jossang argues, then the Oise amber most likely came from an ancient ancestor of Hymenaea oblongifolia, a tree that is currently found only in the Amazon rain forest.
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