Biosynthesis of essential oils in aromatic plants: A review

Rafia Rehman, Muhammad Asif Hanif*, Zahid Mushtaq, Abdullah Mohammed Al-Sadi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


In aromatic plants species, biosynthesis of essential oils occurs through two complex natural biochemical pathways involving different enzymatic reactions. Isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and its isomer dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP) are the universal precursors of essential oil biosynthesis and are produced by the cytosolic enzymatic MVA (mevalonic acid) pathway or by plastidic and enzymatic 1-deoxy-d-xylolose-5-phosphate (DXP) pathway, also called the 2-C-methylerythritol-4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. In the particular plant cell part, prenyl diphosphate synthases condense isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP) further to form prenyl diphosphates, which are used as substrates for geranyl diphosphate (GPP; C10) or for fernesyl diphosphate (FPP; C15). Essential oils are final terpenoid products and are formed by a huge group of enzymes known as terpene synthases (TPS). Essential oils are important secondary metabolites of plants and have been used not only in different industries but also in ethnobotanical medicines for centuries. Hence, considerable research has been undertaken to understand the essential oil biosynthetic pathways. This review will be a valuable source of information in the field of natural products, as we give detailed insights about biosynthesis of essential oils in plants and thus indicate also new unexplored horizons for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-160
Number of pages44
JournalFood Reviews International
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2 2016


  • Aromatic plants
  • biochemical pathways
  • biosynthesis
  • essential oils
  • natural products

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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