Novel small molecule regulators of animal development

Identification and characterisation of small plant-bioactive molecules that regulate mammalian development.

From legume biology to human health

The growth of blood vessels from existing blood vessels (angiogenesis) is a tightly controlled process in mammals. Much research is aimed at developing drugs that inhibit or promote blood vessel growth with the view to control cancer or to promote cardiovascular health. More than 500 million people may stand to benefit from anti- or pro-angiogenic treatments in the coming decades.

In collaboration with the John Curtin School of Medical Research (Parish laboratory) we have discovered that Nod factors and certain secondary plant metabolites can regulate angiogenesis. Nod factors are potent plant-bioactive compounds, but we have also found that they can inhibit or promote in vitro angiogenesis in rodent and human model systems in a concentration-dependent fashion. Bioactivity is linked to molecular structure. We have synthesised Nod factor variants and confirmed that subtle changes in structure lead to profound alterations in activity.

In generic terms, Nod factors stand apart from other anti-angiogenic drugs. As novel carbohydrate-based structures, from a novel source, and with a potentially novel mode of action, these molecules may well form a unique new class of both anti-angiogenic and pro-angiogenic drugs with potential therapeutic value. Research is directed to determining the mode of action of these Nod factors. We are also investigating how select plant secondary metaboites also affect mammalian angiogenesis.


John Curtin School of Medical Research (Parish laboratory).