Plant Metabolism of Organic Xenobiotics. Status and Prospects of the ‘Green Liver’ Concept

  • Heinrich SandermannJr.
Part of the Current Plant Science and Biotechnology in Agriculture book series (PSBA, volume 36)


The plant metabolism of xenobiotics resembles that of mammalian liver in terms of metabolite patterns, enzyme classes and protein as well as DNA sequences. Plants appear to contain isoenzymes with specificity for secondary plant substrates or xenobiotics. The derived ‘green liver’ concept is further supported by the following recent results:
  • O-, N-, and S-glucosyltransferases for xenobiotics occur in many higher and lower plant species. Cytochrome P450 monooxygenases for fatty acids and xenobiotics have been discovered in marine macroalgae. Glutathione-dependent formaldehyde dehydrogenase is identified as a progenitor of the plant alcohol dehydrogenase superfamily. Common indoor plants were active in the phytoremediation of air containing formaldehyde. Phytoremediation of soil and water also seems possible. However, new methods are required to overcome hydrophilic and lipophilic transport barriers. Several herbicides (glufosinate, glyphosate, isoproturon) were found to form metabolites that were identical in microbial, plant and animal systems.

  • The main prospects of the ‘green liver’ concept are seen in phytoremediation and in ecological genetics. A role of gene duplication and mutation, as well as genetic rearrangements is generally well established for the evolution of isoenzyme families. In addition, the existence of a gene pool in soil with potential accessibility to both microorganisms and plants is proposed because plant genes have recently been found to persist in soil over many months. A soil gene pool could contribute to processes such as soil adaptation to pesticides and horizontal gene transfer into microorganisms and plants.


Horizontal Gene Transfer Cytochrome P450 Monooxygenases Metabolite Pattern Plant Cell Suspension Culture Ecological Genetic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heinrich SandermannJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Biochemische PflanzenpathologieGSF - Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit GmbHOberschleißheimGermany

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