Department of Biochemistry

Secondary metabolites

Research team

  • Tomáš Kašparovský, 
  • Jitka Kašparovská
  • Kateřina Dadáková
  • Ludmila Křížová 

Project summary 

The research is focused on secondary metabolites produced primarily by plants in reaction to a pathogen attack, or to prevent this attack. Apart from plants, the secondary metabolism can be found in fungi or in microorganisms. Secondary metabolites have various chemical structures, and also the metabolic pathways leading to their production are diverse, and genus- and species-specific.

In our laboratory, we concentrate on secondary metabolites produced by grapevine, cultivated tobacco, tomato plants, soybean, and red clover. We study both the production of secondary metabolites during the plant defence reaction and their fate in the environment, e.g. in the alimentary canal of animals like ruminants. The production of these metabolites in reaction to biotic and abiotic stress enables us to use these compounds as markers of the defence reaction. Further, we explore the plant resistance in relation to the growing conditions.

Some secondary metabolites have, apart from their role in the plant defence, beneficial effects on human health. One such example, studied extensively in our laboratory, are phytoestrogens derived from isoflavones. Thanks to a broad spectrum of their pharmacological and antioxidant properties, isoflavones play an important role in the human diet. These compounds, produced by plants, were found to be further metabolised in the alimentary canal of animals. That way, metabolites with even stronger oestrogen and antioxidant properties may be produced, like in the case of daidzein conversion to equol. As for ruminants, these compounds may be detected also in their milk and in dairy products.

We aim to use in vitro and in vivo experiments to find secondary metabolites suitable as molecular and biochemical markers of priming an effective systemic resistance in plants. Other goals are to describe the isoflavone metabolism in the rumen, to find optimal conditions for effective transfer of beneficial compounds from feed to milk, and subsequently, to obtain a foodstuff providing a larger health benefit.

Our laboratory focuses on basic research; the results obtained may be subsequently used for plant disease diagnostics, priming of plant resistance, and for obtaining functional foods. 

Selected publications

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