For three decades beginning in 1970 James Roddick of the University of Exeter explored the biochemistry of nightshade glycoalkaloids. Beginning with alpha-tomatine in 1974, he explored and reported on its anti-microbial properties.1 In 1975, he began focusing on its powers of membrane disruption.2 He also studied the combined effects of solanine and chaconine, the primary potato glycoalkaloids.3 In 1989 he documented in detail their impact on acetylcholinesterase.4 (That’s the primary enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine discussed above, and the nightshade link to a 1936 Nobel Prize.)
In a 1990 article he wrote: “A considerable amount is now known about the biological activity of steroidal glycoalkaloids from important food plants, e.g. tomatine from tomato and (especially) solanine and chaconine, the main potato glycoalkaloids. All three compounds exert deleterious effects on a variety of structures ranging from synthetic membranes through organelles and cells to living organisms including Man.”5
Roddick was still alive as recently as 2016. He replied to a letter, graciously opting out of any contemporary debates, saying that he had not kept up with the science.
- “The steroidal glycoalkaloid alpha-tomatine”
- “Response of Tissues and Organs of Tomato to Exogenous alpha-Tomatine”
- “Synergistic interaction between the potato glycoalkaloids alpha-solanine and alpha-chaconine in relation to lysis of phospholipid/sterol liposomes”
- “The acetylcholinesterase-inhibitory activity of steroidal glycoalkaloids and their aglycones”
- “Membrane-disrupting properties of the steroidal glycoalkaloids solasonine and solamargine”