Fern Baby Fern

Synthesis of Plant Auxin Derivatives and Their Effects on Ceratopteris richardii: A Collaborative Experiment between Undergraduate Organic and Biochemistry Laboratories. By Corey E. Stilts and Roxanne Fisher in J. Chem. Educ., 2007, 84, p. 999.
I was especially impressed by this experiment. It combines a couple of very interesting aspect. The first aspect that intrigues me is that the students design their own synthesis of an auxin-like compound from an aromatic carboxylic acid starting material (indole 3-acetic acid, 1-naphthoic acid, 1-naphthene acetic acid, etc…). The examples given in the supplemental materials are rather simple esterification reactions. Next, the synthesized compounds are handed off to biochemistry students who perform a growth test with the synthetic auxins. Ceratopteris richardii appears to be a type of fern. The growth experiment looks rather involved with at least two weeks worth of measurements. The growth measurements are plotted and the students from both courses can compare the biological activity of their derivatives to the activity of the original carboxylic acids. I think the concept is fantastic: compounds synthesized by organic chemistry students are used in bioassays performed in another course. This is the type of collaboration that scientists do all the time. The bioassay gives a purpose to the synthesis. Much better than disposal!

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