5. Primary vs Secondary Metabolites

Secondary Metabolites Definition

  • Secondary metabolites are the organic compounds that are produced by various organisms that are not directly involved in the growth, development, or reproduction of the organism but are essential in the ecological and other activities.
  • Secondary metabolites are also termed specialized metabolites or natural products.
  • Because secondary metabolites are not involved in the growth and development of the organism, the absence of these compounds causes little to no effect on the survivability of the organism.
  • However, in the long run, some mild effects might be observed.
  • Some secondary metabolites are specific to a species and are only found in them, but the horizontal transfer of these metabolites across species has seen to play an important role in the evolution of some organisms.
  • Although they are not important for survival, secondary metabolites might be important for other activities like protection, competition, and species interaction.
  • Secondary metabolites are classified into groups based on their biosynthetic origin. Some of the secondary metabolites are derived forms of primary metabolites.
  • These are also formed during the stationary phase of growth in most organisms. This phase of growth is termed ‘idiophase’.
  • Most secondary metabolites tend to act as a defense mechanism against various foreign invaders.
  • These are produced in rather smaller quantities and are difficult to extract.
  • Secondary metabolites are also not a part of the molecular organization of the organism.
  • Some categories of secondary metabolites have been used in various biotechnological procedures for the formation of drugs and other compounds.
  • Since secondary metabolites are specific to species, different secondary metabolites are involved in various procedures.
  • Some examples of secondary metabolites include steroids, essential oils, phenolics, alkaloids, pigments, antibiotics, etc.

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