An Update Towards the Production of Plant Secondary Metabolites

  • Sumeer RazdanEmail author


Plants possess a large number of organic compounds performing vistas of physiological functions associated with plant defence and protection. Due to their no direct role in primary metabolism, they are called as secondary metabolites (SM). These compounds perform a variety of functional roles such as protectant against UV radiation, an attractant for insect feeding purpose, signal molecule during the nitrogen fixation and oligomeric flavonoid in the formation of bark and wood. SM production in plants involves different strategies. Plant cell and tissue cultures have huge potential in the production of a variety of secondary metabolites. Elicitation strategies using abiotic and biotic factors have been found to increase the levels of SM. Metabolic engineering (ME) or pathway engineering is also a potent tool in the scalable, selective and economical production of SM. Using this strategy, the increased titre of therapeutically important compounds like artemisinin, reticuline, paclitaxel and strictosidine has been obtained in heterologous hosts like Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Similarly increased titre of various SM has been obtained by engineering native plant biosynthetic pathways via gene overexpression or silencing transcription factors (TF), and manuplation of key biosyntheic pathway genes. Locational engineering based upon the intensification of enzyme concentration and presence of transporter molecules which carry metabolites to exact locations has also been used to engineer SM biosynthesis. Using this strategy increased levels of triterpenes and sesquiterpenes have been obtained in the plastids and mitochondria of tobacco plants. Novel and unnatural SM can be generated via swapping enzymes and reconstruction of metabolic circuits between various biosynthetic pathways. CRISPR/Cas9 is another potent upcoming gene-editing tool modulating SM biosynthesis. It has been successfully used in altering SM (tanshinones) biosynthesis in Salvia miltiorrhiza. Reports of enhancement in terpene and flavonoid content in tomato using RNAi have been also documented.


Secondary metabolites Terpenoids Alkaloids Metabolic engineering 



Secondary metabolites




Plant tissue culture


Transcription factor


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central Instrumentation LaboratoryCentral University of PunjabBathindaIndia

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