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Chapter

Cover Chemical Aspects of Biosynthesis

Ecological chemistry  

This chapter reviews the use of secondary metabolites as mediators of interactions between organisms and the identification of inter- and intra-species interactions known as ecological chemistry. It assesses speculation on the origins of the main secondary metabolic pathways wherein secondary metabolites that are produced by plants and insects arose in response to the continually changing interactions that occur between species. It also discusses how plants and insects have been co-evolving for millions of years. This resulted in plants developing biosynthetic pathways that produce toxic or distasteful compounds. The chapter mentions how insects have devised means of overcoming the defences of plants, even using their deterrent chemicals for their own purposes. It notes subtle changes in the levels of particular enzymes. These alter the structure or quantity of a secondary metabolite and lead to an improvement in the survival prospects of the producer species.