An exploration on the toxicity mechanisms of phytotoxins and their potential utilities

Huiling Chen, Harpreet Singh, Neha Bhardwaj, Sanjeev K. Bhardwaj, Madhu Khatri, Ki Hyun Kim, Wanxi Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Phytotoxins are poisonous substances synthesized by plants or plant pathogens through naturally occurring biochemical reactions. Plants use them as defensive agents against predators (pests, insects, stress, etc.) and diseases. These substances are commonly produced as secondary metabolites and exhibit high versatility in their properties (e.g., mode of toxicity, structure, and chemical composition). Based on their structures and biosynthetic pathways, phytotoxins can be classified as ribosome inactivating proteins, non-protein amino acids, alkaloids, terpenes, or cyanogenic glycosides. The present work uses a holistic approach to identify different classes of phytotoxins from both plant and microbial origins. It also discusses the application of phytotoxins to agriculture (development of herbicides and biopesticides), plant protection against biotic and abiotic stress, healthcare (anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-venom properties), pharmacology (clinical toxicology assessment), and biomedicine (development of drugs and vaccines). In short, phytotoxins can be beneficial in many applications. Future research should focus on identifying and using phytotoxins for crop enhancement and in the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-435
Number of pages41
JournalCritical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Alkaloids
  • glycosides
  • phytotoxins


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