Discoverer of Vitamin C Biosynthetic Pathway in Plants to Speak

PULLMAN, Wash. — Nicholas Smirnoff, whose discovery of the pathway of
ascorbic acid biosynthesis in plants is widely regarded as one of the most
important findings in plant science in recent times, speaks March 3 on the
Washington State University campus.

He will give the annual Haarman-Reimer Distinguished Lecture, this year on
“Biosynthesis and Function of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) in Plants,” at noon
in Todd Hall, Room 276.

Vitamin C is vital to the health of humans and plants, but the plant’s ability to
synthesize it was, until recently, a mystery. Smirnoff, a researcher at the
University of Exeter, UK, and two of his students published their
ground-breaking findings in May 1998.

The work of Smirnoff and his students is “a landmark advance in the knotty
problem of ascorbic acid biosynthesis in plants,” says Frank A. Loewus,
emeritus professor of biological chemistry at WSU and a pioneer in the study
of ascorbate metabolism in plants.

In plants, ascorbic acid provides crucial functions ranging from protection
during photosynthesis to involvement in cell division and development. The
discovery of the biosynthetic pathway should provide fresh insight into new
biological roles of vitamin C.