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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Do you know who canavanine was named after?


QUESTION:
Do you know who this amino acid was named after? Or can you refer me to a source of the origin of canavanine? I conduct research on the surname Canavan and would like to include this person to my web site.

ANSWER:

Canavanine was first isolated in large amounts from the jack bean, Canavalia ensiformis. I have always presumed that the name of the amino acid came from the name of the genus for this bean species. The first enzyme ever crystalized and shown to be a specific protein was urease, also from the jack bean, by Sumner. He won the Nobel Prize for that work. Also, this bean is the source for canavalanin A, a very importany lectin used in cell biology and medical research. And, if properly prepared, you can eat them! Let me know if your relative played a part in identifying and naming this generous member of the plant family. More likely, your ancestor impressed the actual namer of this plant and was honored by him or her with the name.