Secondary transport as an efficient membrane transport mechanism for plant secondary metabolites

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Plants produce a large number of secondary metabolites, such as alkaloids, terpenoids, and phenolic compounds. Secondary metabolites have various functions including protection against pathogens and UV light in plants, and have been used as natural medicines for humans utilizing their diverse biological activities. Many of these natural compounds are accumulated in a particular compartment such as vacuoles, and some are even translocated from source cells to sink organs via long distance transport. Both primary and secondary transporters are involved in such compartmentation and translocation, and many transporter genes, especially genes belonging to the multidrug and toxin extrusion type transporter family, which consists of 56 members in Arabidopsis, have been identified as responsible for the membrane transport of secondary metabolites. Better understandings of these transporters as well as the biosynthetic genes of secondary metabolites will be important for metabolic engineering aiming to increase the production of commercially valuable secondary metabolites in plant cells.

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