colchicine (kŏlˈchəsēnˌ) [key], alkaloid extracted from plants of the genus Colchicum and especially from the corms of the autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale (see meadow saffron). The metabolic effect of colchicine is not known, but it is thought that it may decrease production of lactic acid and prevent accumulation of uric acid crystals in the body, making it useful in the treatment of gout. Colchicine and derivatives such as demecolcine inhibit mitosis, or cell division. As a mitotic poison, it inhibits rapidly proliferating cells and has been used in cancer therapy and as an immunosuppressive drug. Colchicine has also been used to visualize chromosomes photomicrographically and to induce mutations experimentally.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on colchicine from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pharmacology