Plant glutathione transferase-mediated stress tolerance: functions and biotechnological applications

Plant Cell Rep. 2017 Jun;36(6):791-805. doi: 10.1007/s00299-017-2139-7. Epub 2017 Apr 8.


Plant glutathione transferases (EC, GSTs) are an ancient, multimember and diverse enzyme class. Plant GSTs have diverse roles in plant development, endogenous metabolism, stress tolerance, and xenobiotic detoxification. Their study embodies both fundamental aspects and agricultural interest, because of their ability to confer tolerance against biotic and abiotic stresses and to detoxify herbicides. Here we review the biotechnological applications of GSTs towards developing plants that are resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses. We integrate recent discoveries, highlight, and critically discuss the underlying biochemical and molecular pathways involved. We elaborate that the functions of GSTs in abiotic and biotic stress adaptation are potentially a result of both catalytic and non-catalytic functions. These include conjugation of reactive electrophile species with glutathione and the modulation of cellular redox status, biosynthesis, binding, and transport of secondary metabolites and hormones. Their major universal functions under stress underline the potential in developing climate-resilient cultivars through a combination of molecular and conventional breeding programs. We propose that future GST engineering efforts through rational and combinatorial approaches, would lead to the design of improved isoenzymes with purpose-designed catalytic activities and novel functional properties. Concurrent GST-GSH metabolic engineering can incrementally increase the effectiveness of GST biotechnological deployment.

Keywords: Enzyme engineering; Glutathione peroxidase; Pathogen resistance; Phytoremediation; Plant hormones; Secondary metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism*
  • Plant Growth Regulators / metabolism


  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Glutathione Transferase