- Khat (Catha edulis Forsk.) is a flowering perennial shrub cultivated for its neurostimulant properties resulting mainly from the occurrence of (S)-cathinone in young leaves. The biosynthesis of (S)-cathinone and the related phenylpropylamino alkaloids (1S,2S)-cathine and (1R,2S)-norephedrine is not well characterized in plants. We prepared a cDNA library from young khat leaves and sequenced 4,896 random clones, generating an expressed sequence tag (EST) library of 3,293 unigenes. Putative functions were assigned to > 98% of the ESTs, providing a key resource for gene discovery. Candidates potentially involved at various stages of phenylpropylamino alkaloid biosynthesis from L-phenylalanine to (1S,2S)-cathine were identified.