Plant cell and tissue cultures can be established routinely under sterile conditions from explants, such as plant leaves, stems, roots, meristems etc for both the ways for multiplication and extraction of secondary metabolites. Strain improvement, methods for the selection of high-producing cell lines, and medium optimizations can lead to an enhancement in secondary metabolite production. However, most often trials with plant cell cultures fail to produce the desired products. In such cases, strategies to improve the production of secondary metabolites must be considered. One of the main problems encountered is the lack of basic knowledge of the biosynthetic routes, and mechanisms responsible for the production of plant metabolites. Where the productivity of the desired metabolites is limited by the lack of particular precursors, biotransformation using an exogenous supply of biosynthetic precursors, genetic manipulation and metabolic engineering may improve the accumulation of compounds. Feedback inhibition of metabolic enzymes as well as inhibition of membrane transport can be eliminated by the accumulation of synthesized products in a second phase introduced into the aqueous medium. Organ cultures and in vitro biomass production often have sites of synthesis and storage of secondary metabolites in separate compartments. Elicitors, compounds triggering the formation of secondary metabolites, can be abiotic or biotic. Natural elicitors include polysaccharides such as pectin and chitosan, which are also used in the immobilization and permeabilization of plant cells. Immobilization with suitable bioreactor system provides several advantages, such as continuous process operation, but for the development of an immobilized plant cell culture process, natural or artifically induced secretion of the accumulated product into the surrounding medium is necessary. The present review highlights the nature, applications, perspective and scale up methods for the production of valuable secondary metabolites in vitro.
Key words: Plant cell cultures, secondary metabolites, biotransformation, biosynthetic pathways, elicitation, immobilization, bioreactors.
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