Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules. A primary metabolite is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. Metabolites from chemical compounds, whether inherent or pharmaceutical, are formed as part of the natural biochemical process of degrading and eliminating the compounds. The rate of degradation of a compound is an important determinant of the duration and intensity of its action.

Primary metabolites are compounds ubiquitous in living organisms and essential for life, such as carbohydrates, the essential amino acids and polymers derived from them.

The metabolome forms a large network of metabolic reactions, where outputs from one enzymatic chemical reaction are inputs to other chemical reactions.

Metabolome refers to the complete set of small-molecule metabolites (such as metabolic intermediates, hormones and other signaling molecules, and secondary metabolites) to be found within a biological sample, such as a single organism.

The relevance of nucleic acids, proteins, and carbohydrates for all aspects of biology is well established, but the varied and often unexpected roles of so-called “secondary”metabolites are just now being discovered. Secondary metabolites regulate development and immune responses in plants and animals (such as hormones) and also play an important role in the interactions of different organisms with each other. Identifying secondary metabolites and determining their function is an important area of biomedical research that can help scientists better understand diseases such as bacterial infections, diabetes and cancer, as well as the phenomenon of aging.

Last modified: Wednesday, 25 January 2012, 11:51 AM