Higher plants synthesize an amazing diversity of phenolic secondary metabolites. Phenolics are defined secondary metabolites or natural products because, originally, they were considered not essential for plant growth and development. Plant phenolics, like other natural compounds, provide the plant with specific adaptations to changing environmental conditions and, therefore, they are essential for plant defense mechanisms. Plant defensive traits are costly for plants due to the energy drain from growth toward defensive metabolite production. Being limited with environmental resources, plants have to decide how allocate these resources to various competing functions. This decision brings about trade-offs, i.e., promoting some functions by neglecting others as an inverse relationship. Many studies have been carried out in order to link an evaluation of plant performance (in terms of growth rate) with levels of defense-related metabolites. Available results suggest that environmental stresses and stress-induced phenolics could be linked by a transduction pathway that involves: (i) the proline redox cycle; (ii) the stimulated oxidative pentose phosphate pathway; and, in turn, (iii) the reduced growth of plant tissues.
Keywords: environmental stresses; phenolics; proline; resistance costs; trade-offs; transduction pathway.