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The nature of the genetic difference in the coumarin metabolism of bitter and non-bitter Melilotus alba Desr. Freyman, Stanislaw


The phenylpropanoid compound, coumarin, is responsible for the bitterness and indirectly, toxicity in the forage legume sweet clover (Melilotus alba). Coumarin, mainly in the "bound" form as the β glucoside of o-coumaric acid is abundant in the bitter plants, but not in the shoots of the low-coumarin "Denta" and "Cumino" varieties, and in the species M. dentata. Substantial quantities of the coumaric acid glucoside have been found in the seed of these low-coumarin plants. The search for a compound that substitutes for coumarin in the shoots of low-coumarin plants, led to the isolation of a flavonoid, somewhat resembling quercetin. Feeding of o and p-coumaric acids to both high and low-coumarin plants led to the methoxylation of these compounds prior to glycosidation. When cinnamic acid was fed, no difference in the metabolic products could be detected from those normally, found in control plants.

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