Phytochemistry Reviews

, 7:467 | Cite as

Mechanisms of resistance to self-produced toxic secondary metabolites in plants

  • Supaart Sirikantaramas
  • Mami Yamazaki
  • Kazuki SaitoEmail author


Plants produce a variety of secondary metabolites to protect themselves from pathogens and herbivores and/or to influence the growth of neighbouring plants. Some of these metabolites are toxic to the producing cells when their target sites are present in the producing organisms. Therefore, a specific self-resistance mechanism must exist in these plants. Self-resistance mechanisms, including extracellular excretion, vacuolar sequestration, vesicle transport, extracellular biosynthesis, and accumulation of the metabolite in a non-toxic form, have been proposed thus far. Recently, a new mechanism involving mutation of the target protein of the toxic metabolite has been elucidated. We review here the mechanisms that plants use to prevent self-toxicity from the following representative compounds: cannabinoids, flavonoids, diterpene sclareol, alkaloids, benzoxazinones, phenylpropanoids, cyanogenic glycosides, and glucosinolates.


Secondary metabolite Toxicity Self-resistance Detoxification 



ATP-binding cassette




Cannabichromenic acid








Glutathione S-transferease


Pleiotropic drug resistance




Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid



Research in the authors’ laboratory was supported, in part, by the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), and by CREST of the Japan Science and Technology. SS was recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship from the JSPS hosted by MY.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Supaart Sirikantaramas
    • 1
  • Mami Yamazaki
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kazuki Saito
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Graduate School of Pharmaceutical SciencesChiba UniversityInage-kuJapan
  2. 2.CRESTJapan Science and Technology AgencyKawaguchiJapan
  3. 3.RIKEN Plant Science CenterTsurumi-kuJapan

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