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Plant-produced volatile organic compounds
Kegge, Wouter Plant Ecophysiology Group, Institute of Environmental Biology, Urecht University, Urecht, The Netherlands.
Gankema, Paulien Plant Ecophysiology Group, Institute of Environmental Biology, Urecht University, Urecht, The Netherlands.
Pierik, Ronald Plant Ecophysiology Group, Institute of Environmental Biology, Urecht University, Urecht, The Netherlands.
- VOCs as signals in plant–insect interactions
- VOCs in plant–plant interactions
- VOCs and the environment
- Future perspectives
- Related Primary Literature
Perhaps the most striking feature of plants is that they perform photosynthesis: They produce food (sugars) from sunlight, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water, thereby fueling life on Earth. In addition to this primary metabolism, plants also produce secondary metabolites, which are mostly involved in the interactions of plants with their environment and in adjusting plant growth and behavior through plant hormones. Secondary metabolites include, for example, pigments that color their flowers and components that give taste and smell to plants. Components that provide smell are typically (partly) volatile and are termed volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Plants produce a broad range of VOCs, with the largest groups being terpenoids (compounds with an isoprenoid structure similar to that of the terpene hydrocarbons) and green leaf volatiles (GLVs). GLVs are best known as the smell that is produced by freshly mown grass; this group of volatiles mainly consists of C6-aldehydes, C6-alcohols, and their acetates. Terpenoids contribute to many different scents. For example, the smell of pine trees comes from pinene, the smell of ginger is zingiberene, whereas limonene contributes to the taste and smell of many citrus fruits. Terpenoids are synthesized through polymerization of C5 isoprene units. Monoterpenes (composed from two isoprene subunits), diterpenes (composed from four isoprene subunits), and tetraterpenes (composed from eight isoprene subunits) are produced in the plastids of plants. Sesquiterpenes (composed from three isoprene subunits) and triterpenes (composed from six isoprene subunits) are formed in the plant cell's cytosol and endoplasmic reticulum.
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