The myrosinase-glucosinolate system, its organisation and biochemistry


  • Atle M. Bones,

    Corresponding author
    1. Unigen Center for Molecular Biology and Dept of Botany, MTFS, Univ. of Trondheim. N-7005 Trondheim, Norway
      A. M. Bones, corresponding author, e-mail
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  • John T. Rossiter

    1. Dept of Biological Sciences. Wye College, Univ. of London, Ashford, Kent, TN25 5AH, UK.
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A. M. Bones, corresponding author, e-mail


The myrosinase-glucosinolate system is involved in a range of biological activities affecting herbivorous insects, plants and fungi. The system characteristic of the order Capparales includes sulphur-containing substrates, the degradative enzymes myrosinases, and cofactors. The enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis of glucosinolates initially involves cleavage of the thioglucoside linkage, yielding D-glucose and an unstable thiohydroximate-O-sulphonate that spontaneously rearranges, resulting in the production of sulphate and one of a wide range of possible reaction products. The products are generally a thiocyanate, isothiocyanate or nitrile, depending on factors such as substrate, pH or availability of ferrous ions. Glucosinolates in crucifers exemplify components that are often present in food and feed plants and are a major problem in the utilization of products from the plants. Toxic degradation products restrict the use of cultivated plants, e.g. those belonging to the Brassicaceae. The myrosinase-glucosinolate system may, however, have several functions in the plant. The glucosinolate degradation products are involved in defence against insects and phytopathogens. and potentially in sulphur and nitrogen metabolism and growth regulation. The compartmentalization of the components of the myrosinase-glucosinolate system and the cell-specific expression of the myrosinase represents a unique plant defence system. In this review, we summarize earlier results and discuss the organisation and biochemistry of the myrosinase-glucosinolate system.