With more than 55,000 known compounds serving myriad functions in all forms of life, the terpenoids are the largest as well as the most structurally and stereochemically diverse family of natural products found on earth. Terpenoids are found in marine and terrestrial plants, fungi, bacteria and insects and have many applications in agriculture as antifungals, herbicides or insecticides, as fragrances in cosmetics, or as antibiotics, anti-cancer agents, hormones or contraceptive agents in medicine. Despite their structural diversity, all terpenoids are biosynthesised from two chemically related molecules, namely Δ1- and Δ2-isopentenyldiphosphate, an observation which was first made by the German chemist Otto Wallach more than 100 years ago (Nobel Prize 1910) and put on the correct biochemical foundation by Leopold Ruzicka in Zurich (Nobel Prize 1939).
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