Phenolic compounds are secondary metabolites found most abundantly in plants. These aromatic molecules have important roles, as pigments, antioxidants, signaling agents, the structural element lignan, and as a defense mechanism. The expression of phenolic compounds is promoted by biotic and abiotic stresses (e.g., herbivores, pathogens, unfavorable temperature and pH, saline stress, heavy metal stress, and UVB and UVA radiation). These compounds are formed via the shikimate pathway in higher plants and microorganisms. The enzymes responsible for the regulation of phenolic metabolism are known, and shikimic acid is a central metabolite. The shikimate pathway consists of seven reaction steps, beginning with an aldol-type condensation of phosphoenolpyruvic acid (PEP) from the glycolytic pathway, and D-erythrose-4-phosphate, from the pentose phosphate cycle, to produce 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonic acid 7-phosphate (DAHP). A key branch-point compound is chorismic acid, the final product of the shikimate pathway. The shikimate pathway is described in this chapter, as well as factors that induce the synthesis of phenolic compounds in plants. Some representative examples that show the effect of biotic and abiotic stress on the production of phenolic compounds in plants are discussed.
Part of the book: Plant Physiological Aspects of Phenolic Compounds