The key difference between brucine and strychnine is that brucine is less toxic than strychnine.
Brucine and strychnine are two types of alkaloids that have some toxicity. An alkaloid is a naturally occurring organic compound family containing chemical compounds with at least one nitrogen atom per molecule. The members of this group have some related compounds containing neutral or weakly acidic properties.
What is Brucine?
Brucine is an alkaloid that is most commonly found in the tree Strychnos nux-vomica. It is closely related to strychnine, and is usually ingested with strychnine; thus, brucine poisoning is rare. Further, brucine is comparatively less toxic. This compound is useful as a tool for stereospecific chemical syntheses.
The chemical formula of brucine is C23H26N2O4. The molar mass of this compound is 394.471 g/mol. Brucine was discovered initially by Pelletier and Caventou in 1819 using the bark of the tree, Strychnos nux-vomica. However, the structure of this compound was predicted later in 1889 by Hanssen. He converted both brucine and strychnine into the same molecule.
When considering the identification of brucine, we can detect it and quantify using a combination of liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. However, this compound was distinguished from closely related strychnine in early times using the reactivity towards chromic acid.
There are many different applications of brucine chemical compounds including its chemical applications such as a large chiral molecule in chiral resolution, medical applications such as using it as a treatment for cancer and as an analgesic agent, etc.
The brucine intoxication is a rare incident. This is because this compound is easily ingested with strychnine. However, symptoms of brucine can be identified as muscle spasms, convulsions, and acute kidney injury. This compound can act as an antagonist at glycine receptors followed by paralyzing inhibitory neurons.
What is Strychnine?
Strychnine is a crystalline alkaloid compound that is useful mainly as a pesticide. It is a highly toxic, colourless substance that has a bitter taste. Particularly, this substance can kill small vertebrates, including birds and rodents. If we inhale this substance or swallow it or if it is absorbed through eyes or mouth, it can cause poisoning that can result in muscular convulsions. These toxic effects can eventually cause death through asphyxia. The most common source of strychnine is the seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica tree.
The chemical formula of strychnine is C21H22N2O2, and the molar mass is 334.419 g/mol. This substance appears as white or translucent crystals or as a crystalline powder having a bitter taste. When considering the mechanism of action of strychnine, it acts as a neurotoxin having antagonist properties towards glycine and acetylcholine receptors. Primarily, this substance affects the motor nerve fibres in the spinal cord that controls muscle contraction. Further, there is an impulse triggered at one end of a nerve cell through the binding of neurotransmitters to the receptors.
Generally, strychnine is highly toxic to humans in high doses and to many other animals. The poisoning of strychnine through inhalation, swallowing, or absorption through eyes or mouth can become fatal. However, there is no specific antidote for this substance. But we can recover from exposure with early supportive medical treatment.
What is the Difference Between Brucine and Strychnine?
Brucine and strychnine are two types of alkaloids. Alkaloids contain at least one nitrogen atom per molecule, but they are organic compounds. The key difference between brucine and strychnine is that brucine is less toxic than strychnine.
Below is a summary of the difference between brucine and strychnine in tabular form.
Summary – Brucine vs Strychnine
Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring organic compounds containing at least one nitrogen atom per molecule. The key difference between brucine and strychnine is that brucine is less toxic than strychnine.
1. “Strychnine.” Science Direct, Available here.