Ouabain, also known as g-strophanthin, occurs in the seeds of the African plant Strophanthus gratus, from which it was isolated by E. W. Schwartze and co-workers in 1929. It has steroid and saccharide components. Ouabain and other members of the cardenolide family present in leaves are toxic to predator insects. But many insects have developed resistance to cardenolides by mutating a single protein: ATPα. P. Amdolfatto and colleagues at Princeton University recently discovered the mechanism. Ouabain is used extensively in biomedical research and can be used intravenously to treat heart failure.
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