The endangered tropical pitcher plant Nepenthes khasiana has evolved mechanisms to lure, capture, and digest prey animals (USDA 2003; Eilenberg et al. 2010). Native to areas with nutrientpoor soil, consuming insects enables Nepenthes to gain additional nourishment (Mithofer 2011). Located at the ends of leaf tendrils, their pitchers’ bright colors and nectar secretions are a powerful attractant for bugs (Mithofer 2011). Venturing insects slip on the pitcher’s waxy mouth and fall inside, ultimately drowning in the liquid (Rischer et al. 2002). Glands located at the base of the pitcher secrete hydrolyzing enzymes (Eilenberg et al. 2006). This serves to break the arthropod’s body apart so it can be absorbed by the plant as sustenance (Eilenberg et al. 2006). Under special circumstances, Nepenthes pitcher liquid will also contain potent antifungal compounds called naphthoquinones (Eilenberg et al. 2010). Their purpose, it is believed, is to prevent captured prey from being consumed by fungi, a competing organism (Eilenberg et al. 2010). For hundreds of years, naphthoquinones have been utilized in Asia and South America for medicinal purposes (Babula et al. 2009). In the United States, emerging studies are investigating how these compounds can be produced, as well as their efficacy against opportunistic human fungal pathogens (Eilenberg et al. 2010). The importance of this research is underscored by the limited variety of antifungal drugs that are commercially available, as well as their susceptibility to pathogenic resistance and crosstolerance (Kayser et al. 2003).
Keywords: Nepenthes khasiana, fungal infection, antimycotics, napthoquinone, secondary metabolite
Brown, Jessica. 2013. Nepenthes khasiana's chitin-induced pitcher liquid: a potential treatment for opportunistic fungal infection. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 42(2):62-65.
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