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Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2005 Aug;8(4):430-5.

Plant secondary metabolites and vertebrate herbivores--from physiological regulation to ecosystem function.

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School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


Plant secondary metabolites can constrain the diet of vertebrates and these effects can flow through to community dynamics. Recent studies have moved beyond attempting to correlate diet choice with secondary metabolite profiles and instead focus on mechanisms that animals use to detect toxins and to regulate their intake and absorption. These include molecularly determined taste specificity, serotonin-mediated learning and the control of toxin absorption by permeability-glycoproteins. Focus on the detoxification pathways employed by specialist and generalist herbivores has facilitated explicit tests of the long-standing hypothesis that detoxification rates limit feeding. Understanding the molecular basis of differences amongst species in their tolerance of plant secondary metabolites opens many opportunities for understanding the evolutionary history of interactions between vertebrates and their food plants.

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