CHRISTOPHER I. KEELING
Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada
Michael Smith Laboratories and Departments of Botany and Forest Sciences, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada
Terpenoids are the largest class of all known natural products. Plants produce a variety of terpenoid compounds that number in the thousands. Some terpenoids are involved in plant growth and development directly (i.e., in primary metabolism), but most plant terpenoids are thought to function in interactions of plants with their biotic and abiotic environment and have traditionally been referred to as secondary metabolites. In addition to the isolation and identification of plant terpenoids, research has concentrated on the biosynthesis, the biological function, and the exploitation of plant terpenoids for human use as biomaterials and pharmaceuticals. Plant terpenoids are biosynthesized from C5 precursors by the action of prenyl transferases and terpenoid synthases. Often, terpenes are acted on by cytochromes P450 and other enzymes to increase their functionalization. Terpenoid biosynthesis in plants involves several subcellular compartments. The accumulation of terpenoids requires efficient transport systems and specialized anatomical structures. Using isoprene (a hemiterpene), menthol (a monoterpene), artemisinin (a sesquiterpene), and paclitaxel [better known under the registered trademark Taxol (Bristol Myers ...