About this Research Topic
Plants can generate a vast diversity of phytochemicals with different structures and various physiological activities. The known number of phytochemicals has been estimated in the 105 order, with a pace of around 5000 new compounds discovered each year. Moreover, up to 20% of the plant genome could be devoted to the synthesis, transport, and storage of these compounds. Phytochemicals could be grouped in two categories; primary metabolites, participating in the basic process of life and those without an apparent primary function, referred to as secondary or specialized metabolites (SM). Primary metabolites, such as sugar and amino acids, are widely spread and can be found in all cell types in high amounts. In contrast, SMs accumulate in a restricted number of taxonomically related species, under well-defined conditions and in selected tissues. However, they play a critical role in plant environmental fitness because of their physiological effects on pathogens. Using High-Throughput Sequencing Technologies and Non-Targeted Metabolomics on non-model plants, such as most of those producing SMs, there is now an important collection of comprehensive data that allows a better understanding of the complex mechanism underlying plant chemical defense against pathogens.
The catalogue of SM producing plants studied under this integrative approach increases every year. Consequently, a clear view about how different aspects of cell metabolism converge for SM formation and accumulation in the correct places and in response to the different stimuli is possible. Biotic stimuli, such as pathogens and herbivores represent particular importance because of the environmental costs of agricultural pest control. Interestingly, although the term SM includes a wide diversity of compounds by structure and biosynthetic origin, their synthesis is triggered by similar environmental cues, due their similar defensive functions. Therefore, cellular networks leading to their synthesis in response to those signs also share a high level of similarity. Genomic integrative strategies can unravel the details of these metabolic processes.
This Research Topic aims to highlight the latest developments of the role of plant specialized metabolism in plant protection and its possible biotechnological applications. The collection has been organized to include review and original research articles, as well as opinion and perspective papers, covering the following issues:
1) Signaling pathways in the activation of specialized metabolite synthesis induced by plant pathogens. Specialized metabolites of special emphasis include alkaloids and nitrogenous compounds.
2) Specialized metabolite mediated plant defense pathways.
3) Biotechnological applications of specialized metabolite biosynthesis in plant protection and pathogen defense
Keywords: Specialized metabolites, biosynthesis, chemical plant defence, signal transduction, biotechnology
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