Introduction and role of phenolic secondary metabolites

In plants, primary products such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, photosynthetic components, and nucleic acids are common to all; they are involved in the primary metabolic processes of building and maintaining cells. In contrast, secondary metabolites do not appear to have such a vital biochemical role, but studies have indicated a role of these chemicals in defense and stress response of plants. Some of the most abundant stress induced secondary metabolites synthesized by plants are phenolics and their derivatives. Phenolic compounds include a large array of chemical compounds possessing an aromatic ring bearing one or more hydroxyl groups, together with a number of other side groups. Plant phenolics are a chemically heterogeneous group (1-3). These phenolics usually occur in conjugated or esterified form as glycosides (1,2,4). The diverse arrays of plant phenolics have many roles in plant growth and development. Therefore, emergence of dietary and medicinal applications for phenolic phytochemicals, harnessing especially their antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, for the benefit of human health and wellness is not altogether surprising. As stress damage at the cellular level appears similar among eukrayotes, it is logical to suspect that there may be similarities in the mechanism for cellular stress mediation between eukaryotic species. Plant adaptation to biotic and abiotic stress involves the stimulation of protective secondary metabolite pathways (5-7), resulting in the biosynthesis of phenolic antioxidants. Studies indicate that plants exposed to ozone responded with increased transcript levels of enzymes in the phenylpropanoid and lignin pathways (8). Increase in plant thermotolerance is related to the accumulation of phenolic metabolites and heat shock proteins that act as chaperones during hyperthermia (9). Phenolics and specific phenolic like salicyclic acid levels increase in response to infection, acting as defense compounds or serving as precursors for the synthesis of lignin, suberin, and other polyphenolic barriers (10). Antimicrobial phenolics, called phytoalexins, are synthesized around the site of infection during pathogen attack and, along with other simple phenolic metabolites, are believed to be part of a signaling process that results in systemic acquired resistance (5-7). Many phenylpropanoid compounds such as flavonoids, isoflavonoids, anthocyanins, simple phenolics, and polyphenols are induced in response to wounding (11), nutritional stress (12), cold stress (13), and high visible light (14). Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation induces light-absorbing flavonoids and sinapate esters in Arabidopsis to block radiation and protect DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA) from dimerization and cleavage (15). In general, the initiation of the stress response arises from certain changes in the intracellular medium (16) that transmits the stress induced signal to cellular modulating systems, resulting in changes in cytosolic calcium levels, proton potential as a long distance signal (17), and low molecular weight proteins (18). Stress can also initiate free radical generating processes and shift the cellular equilibrium toward lipid peroxidation (19). It is believed that the shift in prooxidant antioxidant equilibrium is a primary nonspecific event in the development of the general stress response (20). Therefore, phenolic compounds are ubiquitous and have important roles in all vascular plants, and as a result are integral part of the human diet (21-23). These phenolic secondary metabolites that are synthesized through the shikimic acid pathway vary from simple phenolics such as the hydroxy benzoic acids and levodopa (l-DOPA) to biphe-nyls such as resveratrol and rosmarinic acid to large condensed tannins and hydrolysable tannins with high molecular weights (23,24). The polymers formed from plant phenolics in the cell wall provide structural support and form barriers to prevent moisture loss diffusion and pathogen encroachment. The phenolics also function in defense mechanisms with UV protectant, antifungal, antibacterial, antifeedant, and antimitotic properties, and in morphogenesis (25,26). When exposed to air, most phenolics readily undergo oxidation to colored quinone containing products. This response is frequently observed as a browning reaction of plant tissues as a part of a healing response. The oxidation of these compounds by poly-phenoloxidase (PPO) has been suggested to be the main cause of apple browning (27). Therefore, protective phenolic metabolites involved in such secondary metabolite linked stress responses in food plant species can be targeted as a source of therapeutic and disease-preventing functional ingredients, especially in oxidation disease linked diets (diets containing foods with a high glycemic index and saturated fats) and environmentally (physically, chemically, and biologically) influenced chronic disease problems (23).

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  • miley
    What is phenolic in secondary metabolism?
    3 years ago

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