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Phytochemistry. 2008 Jun;69(9):1795-813. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2008.03.006. Epub 2008 May 9.

beta-Glucosidases as detonators of plant chemical defense.

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Plant Biochemistry Laboratory, Department of Plant Biology and The VKR Research Centre Proactive Plants, University of Copenhagen, 40 Thorvaldsensvej, DK-1871 Frederiksberg C, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Some plant secondary metabolites are classified as phytoanticipins. When plant tissue in which they are present is disrupted, the phytoanticipins are bio-activated by the action of beta-glucosidases. These binary systems--two sets of components that when separated are relatively inert--provide plants with an immediate chemical defense against protruding herbivores and pathogens. This review provides an update on our knowledge of the beta-glucosidases involved in activation of the four major classes of phytoanticipins: cyanogenic glucosides, benzoxazinoid glucosides, avenacosides and glucosinolates. New aspects of the role of specific proteins that either control oligomerization of the beta-glucosidases or modulate their product specificity are discussed in an evolutionary perspective.

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