Talk:Secondary metabolite

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Proposal to move "Biotechnological approaches" section[edit]

I think this section seems out of place here. I propose that this section be incorporated in the 'natural product' article, which seems to be more focused on human uses as compared with the secondary metabolite article which is more focused on ecology and evolution. Ethan Bass (talk) — Preceding undated comment added 18:52, 27 November 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Removed human health implications paragraphs below[edit]

The first paragraph of this section seems very specific rather than encyclopedic. The second paragraph is highly speculative. IMO, these paragraphs do not really add to the article in their current form.

"Human health implications Most polyphenol nutraceuticals from plant origin must undergo intestinal transformations, by microbiota and enterocyte enzymes, in order to be absorbed at enterocyte and colonocyte levels. This gives rise to diverse beneficial effects in the consumer, including a vast array of protective effects against viruses, bacteria, and protozoan parasites.[1]

Secondary metabolites also have a strong impact on the food humans eat. Some researchers believe that certain secondary metabolite volatiles are responsible for human food preferences that may be evolutionarily based in nutritional food.[2] This area of interest has not been thoroughly researched, but has interesting implications for human preference. Many secondary metabolites aid the plant in gaining essential nutrients, such as nitrogen. For example, legumes use flavonoids to signal a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen fixing bacteria (rhizobium) to increase their nitrogen uptake.[3] Therefore, many plants that utilize secondary metabolites are high in nutrients and advantageous for human consumption." Ethan Bass (talk)


  1. ^ Marín L, Miguélez EM, Villar CJ, Lombó F (6 April 2018). "Bioavailability of dietary polyphenols and gut microbiota metabolism: antimicrobial properties". BioMed Research International. 2015: 905215. doi:10.1155/2015/905215. PMC 4352739. PMID 25802870.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unflagged free DOI (link)
  2. ^ Goff SA, Klee HJ (February 2006). "Plant volatile compounds: sensory cues for health and nutritional value?". Science. 311 (5762): 815–9. Bibcode:2006Sci...311..815G. doi:10.1126/science.1112614. PMID 16469919. S2CID 30819305.
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference Croteau2000 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).


The article says: In answer to below, sure, these by WikipediA are largely obsolete views, even equalling natural product to secondary metabolite. You can see my book - now accessible to reading through Google Print - "Biodiversity and Natural Product Diversity" by Francesco Pietra, Elsevier, Oxford, 2002 for modern views.

Secondary metabolites, also known as natural products, are those products (chemical compounds) of metabolism that are not essential for normal growth, development or reproduction of an organism.

Isn't that a rather outdated view of secondary metabolites? I thought the term secondary metabolite referred to the fact that they were products of secondary (rather than primary metabolic pathways). Am I mistaken? Guettarda 20:16, 23 Feb 2005 (UTC)

So what is the difference between primary and secondary pathways? They lead to primary and secondary metabolites! Sure, primary and secondary pathways have different specific characteristics as a result of the different function of their products and the different evolutionary forces acting on them. But it makes no sense to me to define the differences between primary and secondary metabolites by characteristics of their pathways. You might be interested to read Nat. Prod. Rep. 20:382 (2003 [1]) for a brilliant analysis of the evolution and properties of secondary pathways. Cacycle 10:10, 24 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Sorry if my comment was unclear; what I took issue with was the statement: not essential for normal growth, development or reproduction of an organism. While it may not be the intent of the sentance, it reads like something out of the old school view of secondary metabolites - that they are (to quote Firn and Jone, the paper you referenced): waste products or accidents of metabolism...which they most obviously are not. If they are not essential, then odds are they would be eliminated through natural selection - a point that Firn and Jones made quite strongly. I don't quite see how one would separate "essential" from "non-essential" compounds, and if one did you would end up re-defining the idea of "secondary metabolite"...a compound used in pollinator attraction would not be secondary if the plant has specific pollinator requirements (e.g., Coryanthes), but would be if it were involved in defense against a pathogen which was only present in some populations. But if the plants had no resistance to a given pathogen it might have a much greater impact on the population. For example, if American chestnut had a compound that defended it against chestnut blight, that would be essential for its reproduction, because almost no chestnuts are able to reproduce because stems that are large enough to flower are all killed by the blight (with the exception of some populations, see [2]). So without defensive compounds (often "secondary metabolites) many species might be wiped out by pathogens. "Essential" vs. "non-essential" is really scale-dependent.
As to the second part, as far as I know the term "secondary metabolite" came from the idea of secondary the naming reflects historical ideas about "primary" and "secondary" metabolism. Now, as Firn and Jones pointed out, the idea of primary and secondary metabolism is probably mistaken, but that doesn't change the reason that "secondary metabolites" are so-called. Guettarda 16:05, 24 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Propose name change[edit]

I agree with previous comments and would like to suggest a name change to Natural Products with a note regarding the early name of secondary metabolites.

I second that. Mihovil 18:45, 30 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Merger proposal[edit]

I think that Secondary metabolite should be merged into Secondary metabolism because there is a lot of overlap. In the strictest sense Secondary metabolite article would only be a short definition and a list of examples. Secondary metabolism is a wider concept covering also the metabolite. --Chino 04:59, 26 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

But don't merge Natural Products into Secondary Metabolites. Way more extensive topicKsvaughan2 15:16, 6 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Agreed. Ethan Bass (talk) — Preceding undated comment added 18:09, 27 November 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I removed the reference to biomining, since in 'Web of Knowledge', as well as in the wikipedia page on biomining there is only mention of biomining as mineral mining using microorganisms... Jeroenemans (talk) 12:39, 17 May 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I intend to slightly rewrite this article to make it more understandable to the general public. This seems like a long list of examples of secondary metabolites but I intend to give brief descriptions of each group of "small molecules" and describe the use/natural function of at least 1 example from each group. There is also no pictures of structures of SMs or plants in which they are synthesized. I would like to add these too. Jacobrusiecki (talk) 19:48, 5 March 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]