Root and shoot glucosinolates: a comparison of their diversity, function and interactions in natural and managed ecosystems

N.M. van Dam, T.O.G. Tytgat, J.A. Kirkegaard

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134 Citations (Scopus)


The role of glucosinolates in aboveground plant¿insect and plant¿pathogen interactions has been studied widely in both natural and managed ecosystems. Fewer studies have considered interactions between root glucosinolates and soil organisms. Similarly, data comparing local and systemic changes in glucosinolate levels after root- and shoot-induction are scarce. An analysis of 74 studies on constitutive root and shoot glucosinolates of 29 plant species showed that overall, roots have higher concentrations and a greater diversity of glucosinolates than shoots. Roots have significantly higher levels of the aromatic 2-phenylethyl glucosinolate, possibly related to the greater effectiveness and toxicity of its hydrolysis products in soil. In shoots, the most dominant indole glucosinolate is indol-3-ylglucosinolate, whereas roots are dominated by its methoxyderivatives. Indole glucosinolates were the most responsive after jasmonate or salicylate induction, but increases after jasmonate induction were most pronounced in the shoot. In general, root glucosinolate levels did not change as strongly as shoot levels. We postulate that roots may rely more on high constitutive levels of glucosinolates, due to the higher and constant pathogen pressure in soil communities. The differences in root and shoot glucosinolate patterns are further discussed in relation to the molecular regulation of glucosinolate biosynthesis, the within-tissue distribution of glucosinolates in the roots, and the use of glucosinolate-containing crops for biofumigation. Comparative studies of tissue-specific biosynthesis and regulation in relation to the biological interactions in aboveground and belowground environments are needed to advance investigations of the evolution and further utilization of glucosinolates in natural and managed ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-186
JournalPhytochemistry Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • brassica break-crops
  • defense signaling pathways
  • in-vitro activity
  • arabidopsis-thaliana
  • methyl jasmonate
  • oilseed rape
  • 2-phenylethyl glucosinolate
  • 2-phenylethylisothiocyanate concentration
  • leptosphaeria-maculans
  • pratylenchus-neglectus

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