Catabolism of volatile organic compounds influences plant survival

Trends Plant Sci. 2013 Dec;18(12):695-703. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2013.08.011. Epub 2013 Sep 20.


Plants emit a diverse array of phytogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The production and emission of VOCs has been an important area of research for decades. However, recent research has revealed the importance of VOC catabolism by plants and VOC degradation in the atmosphere for plant growth and survival. Specifically, VOC catabolism and degradation have implications for plant C balance, tolerance to environmental stress, plant signaling, and plant-atmosphere interactions. Here we review recent advances in our understanding of VOC catabolism and degradation, propose experiments for investigating VOC catabolism, and suggest ways to incorporate catabolism into VOC emission models. Improving our knowledge of VOC catabolism and degradation is crucial for understanding plant metabolism and predicting plant survival in polluted environments.

Keywords: VOC emission models; air pollution; catabolism; phytogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs); plant C balance; tolerance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism*


  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Carbon