Horizontal Natural Product Transfer: A Novel Attribution in Allelopathy

  • Dirk SelmarEmail author
  • Sara Abouzeid
  • Alzahraa Radwan
  • Tahani Hijazin
  • Mahdi Yahyazadeh
  • Laura Lewerenz
  • Melanie Nowak
  • Maik Kleinwächter
Living reference work entry
Part of the Reference Series in Phytochemistry book series (RSP)


Whereas the translocation of allelochemicals between plants is well established for many years, a corresponding transfer of common, typical natural products was unknown until recently. This phenomenon was unveiled when the potential sources of contaminations of plant derived commodities by nicotine and pyrrolizidine alkaloids were analyzed thoroughly. According to this so-called Horizontal Natural Product Transfer, alkaloids, which are leached out from decomposing alkaloid containing plant parts (donor plants), are taken up by the roots of acceptor plants. Meanwhile, it becomes evident that not only alkaloids are taken up by acceptor plants but also phenolic compounds such as coumarins or stilbenes.

In analogy to the widespread uptake of xenobiotics, the uptake of natural products is also generally due to a simple diffusion of the substances across the biomembranes and does not require a transporter. The uptake of certain substances only depends on their physicochemical properties.

Contemporary analyses from co-cultivation experiments outlined that natural products are not exclusively transferred from dead and rotting donor plant material but also from living and vital plants. Moreover, the compounds imported are modified within the acceptor plants.

In this article, an actual overview on the phenomenon of “Horizontal Natural Product Transfer” is presented and its relevance for our understanding of plant-plant-interactions is discussed. The fact that common natural products are readily translocated from one plant into others will strongly change our understanding of allelopathy. Up to now, in plant-plant interactions only “classical allelochemicals” had been taken into consideration, e.g., those compounds that reveal certain and definite significance by inhibiting the growth or the germination of potential competitors.


Horizontal transfer Natural products Nicotine Pyrrolizidine alkaloids Xenobiotics Alkaloids 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk Selmar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sara Abouzeid
    • 1
  • Alzahraa Radwan
    • 1
  • Tahani Hijazin
    • 1
  • Mahdi Yahyazadeh
    • 1
  • Laura Lewerenz
    • 1
  • Melanie Nowak
    • 1
  • Maik Kleinwächter
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Plant BiologyTechnische Universität BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany

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