Review Article

Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 283-297

First online:

Flavonoids: Their Structure, Biosynthesis and Role in the Rhizosphere, Including Allelopathy

  • Leslie A. WestonAffiliated withEH Graham Centre, Charles Sturt University Email author 
  • , Ulrike MathesiusAffiliated withDivision of Plant Science, Research School of Biology, Australian National University

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Flavonoids are biologically active low molecular weight secondary metabolites that are produced by plants, with over 10,000 structural variants now reported. Due to their physical and biochemical properties, they interact with many diverse targets in subcellular locations to elicit various activities in microbes, plants, and animals. In plants, flavonoids play important roles in transport of auxin, root and shoot development, pollination, modulation of reactive oxygen species, and signalling of symbiotic bacteria in the legume Rhizobium symbiosis. In addition, they possess antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anticancer activities. In the plant, flavonoids are transported within and between plant tissues and cells, and are specifically released into the rhizosphere by roots where they are involved in plant/plant interactions or allelopathy. Released by root exudation or tissue degradation over time, both aglycones and glycosides of flavonoids are found in soil solutions and root exudates. Although the relative role of flavonoids in allelopathic interference has been less well-characterized than that of some secondary metabolites, we present classic examples of their involvement in autotoxicity and allelopathy. We also describe their activity and fate in the soil rhizosphere in selected examples involving pasture legumes, cereal crops, and ferns. Potential research directions for further elucidation of the specific role of flavonoids in soil rhizosphere interactions are considered.


Plant interference Roots Exudation Rhizosphere Secondary metabolites Phenolics