An indolizidine alkaloid (swainsonine) was isolated from the plant Swainsona canescens. Swainsonine is a specific and potent inhibitor of alpha-mannosidase (EC 3.2.1.24) and when administered to animals produces a phenocopy of the genetically based lysosomal storage disease, mannosidosis. Evidence is presented to suggest that swainsonine is a reversible active site-directed inhibitor of lysosomal alpha-mannosidase.

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