Pharmaceutically significant secondary metabolites or phytopharmaceuticals include alkaloids, glycosides, flavonoids, volatile oils, tannins, resins etc. Currently, most of these secondary metabolites are isolated from wild or cultivated plants because their chemical synthesis is either extremely difficult or economically infeasible. Biotechnological production in plant cell cultures is an attractive alternative, but to date this has had only limited commercial success because of a lack of understanding of how these metabolites are synthesized. Plants and/or plant cells in vitro, show physiological and morphological responses to microbial, physical or chemical factors which are known as ‘elicitors’. Elicitation is a process of induced or enhanced synthesis of secondary metabolites by the plants to ensure their survival, persistence and competitiveness. Here, we discuss the classification of elicitors, their mechanism of action, and applications for the production of phyto-pharmaceuticals from medicinal plants.
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