Plant secondary metabolites as defenses, regulators, and primary metabolites: the blurred functional trichotomy

Erb, Matthias; Kliebenstein, Daniel J. (2020). Plant secondary metabolites as defenses, regulators, and primary metabolites: the blurred functional trichotomy. Plant Physiology, 184(1), pp. 39-52. American Society of Plant Physiologists 10.1104/pp.20.00433

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The plant kingdom produces hundreds of thousands of low molecular weight organic compounds. Based on the assumed functions of these compounds, the research community has classified them into three overarching groups: primary metabolites, which are directly required for plant growth; secondary (or specialized) metabolites, which mediate plant–environment interactions; and hormones, which regulate organismal processesand metabolism. For decades, this functional trichotomy of plant metabolism has shaped theory and experimentation in plant biology. However, exact biochemical boundaries between these different metabolite classes were never fully established. A new wave of genetic and chemical studies now further blurs these boundaries by demonstrating that secondary metabolites are multifunctional; they can function as potent regulators of plant growth and defense as well as primary metabolites sensu lato. Several adaptive scenarios may have favored this functional diversity for secondary metabolites, including signaling robustness and cost-effective storage and recycling. Secondary metabolite multifunctionality can provide new explanations for ontogenetic patterns of defense production and can refine our understanding of plant–herbivore interactions, in particular by accounting for the discovery that adapted herbivores misuse plant secondary metabolites for multiple purposes, some of which mirror their functions in plants. In conclusion, recent work unveils the limits of our current functional classification system for plant metabolites. Viewing secondary metabolites as integrated components of metabolic networks that are dynamically shaped by environmental selection pressures and transcend multiple trophic levels can improve our understanding of plant metabolism and plant– environment interactions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Biotic Interactions
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Erb, Matthias

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0032-0889

Publisher:

American Society of Plant Physiologists

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2020 08:13

Last Modified:

21 Sep 2020 14:42

Publisher DOI:

10.1104/pp.20.00433

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.145127

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/145127

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