Variation in and Functional Significance of Phenolic Conjugation in Plants

  • J. B. Harborne
Part of the Recent Advances in Phytochemistry book series (RAPT, volume 12)


Phenolic compounds rarely occur in the free state in living plant tissue; they are practically always present in conjugated form. In the simplest instance, they are bound to sugar as β-D-glucopyranosides but a wide array of other bound forms are known. Undoubtedly one of the reasons why diphenols such as hydroquinone, catechol or protocatechuic acid are bound to sugar is because of their potential toxicity in the free form to many forms of life. Simple phenols are caustic substances and well known to be potent antimicrobial agents. In medicine, the first successful antiseptic surgery was achieved following the use of phenol itself. The relative infrequency in plants of simple phenolic derivatives may well be related to their significant phytotoxicity. Where they do occur, they may become involved in allelopathic reactions between plants. Compounds such as hydroquinone or salicylic acid occur bound in the plant; they may be released into the environment from leaf or root in free form to exert an inhibitory effect on seed germination or plant growth in the surrounding soil23.


Condensed Tannin Phenolic Group Hydroxycinnamic Acid Protocatechuic Acid Hydrolysable Tannin 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. B. Harborne
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant Science LaboratoriesThe UniversityReadingUK

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