The name was originally given to plant products of this nature, in which the other part of the molecule was, in the greater number of cases, an aromatic aldehydic or phenolic compound (exceptions are sinigrin and jalapin or scammonin). It has now been extended to include synthetic ethers, such as those obtained by acting on alcoholic glucose solutions with hydrochloric acid, and also the polysaccharoses, e.g. cane sugar, which appear to be ethers also. Although glucose is the most common sugar present in glucosides, many are known which yield rhamnose or iso-dulcite; these may be termed pentosides. Much attention has been given to the non-sugar parts (aglyca) of the molecules; the constitutions of many have been determined, and the compounds synthesized; and in some cases the preparation of the synthetic glucoside effected.
The simplest glucosides are the alkyl ethers which have been obtained by reacting hydrochloric acid on alcoholic glucose solutions. A better method of preparation is to dissolve solid anhydrous glucose in methanol containing hydrochloric acid. A mixture of alpha- and beta-methylglucoside results.
Classification of the glucosides is a matter of some difficulty. One based on the chemical constitution of the non-glucose part of the molecules has been proposed that frames four groups: (I) alkyl derivatives, (2) benzene derivatives, (3) styrolene derivatives, (4) anthracene derivatives. A group may also be made to include the cyanogenic glucosides, i.e. those containing prussic acid. Other classifications follow a botanical classification, which has several advantages; in particular, plants of allied genera contain similar compounds. In this article the chemical classification will be followed, and only the more important compounds will be discussed here.
The most important cyanogenetic glucoside is amygdalin, which occurs in bitter almonds. The enzyme maltase decomposes it into glucose and mandelic nitrile glucoside; the latter is broken down by emulsin into glucose, benzaldehyde and prussic acid. Emulsin also decomposes amygdalin directly into these compounds without the intermediate formation of mandelic nitrile glucoside.
Several other glucosides of this nature have been isolated. The saponins are a group of substances characterized by forming a lather with water; they occur in soap-bark. Mention may also be made of indican, the glucoside of the indigo plant; this is hydrolysed by the indigo ferment, indimulsiri, to indoxyl and indiglucin.
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