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Plant natural products: a primer

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Over the course of evolution, plants have adapted various structural and chemical mechanisms to protect themselves and interact with their environment. The chemical mechanisms are largely based on the secondary metabolites or natural products. Although plant natural products are generally divided into three main categories (terpenoids, alkaloids, and phenylpropanoids) that are based on structural type and biosynthetic origin, there are many other smaller categories of unique compounds. Many important in planta biological functions can be attributed to plant natural products, in large part, owing to their tremendous structural diversity. To understand the functional roles of plant natural products, both as protective compounds and interorganismal signals, it is important to know how they are formed in plants. This minireview provides a general background about the three main categories of plant natural products, their biosynthetic origins, and their structural diversity.

Au cours de l’évolution, les plantes ont adapté divers mécanismes structuraux et chimiques pour se protéger et pour interagir avec leur environnement. Les mécanismes chimiques sont en grande partie basés sur les métabolites secondaires ou les produits naturels. Alors que les produits naturels des plantes se divisent généralement en trois catégories principales (terpénoïdes, alcaloïdes et phénylpropanoïdes) d’après leur type structural ainsi que leur origine biosynthétique, il existe de nombreuses autres catégories plus petites de composés exceptionnels. Plusieurs fonctions biologiques in planta peuvent être attribuées aux produits naturels des plantes, en grande partie à cause de leur énorme diversité structurale. Afin de comprendre les rôles fonctionnels des produits naturels des plantes, autant comme composés de protection que comme signaux entre les organismes, il est essentiel de savoir comment ils se forment à l’intérieur des plantes. La présente courte rétrospective fournit des renseignements de base sur les trois principales catégories de produits naturels de plantes, sur leurs origines biosynthétiques et leur diversité structurale.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2010

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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