The effect of ultraviolet radiation on the accumulation of medicinal compounds in plants

A review is given of how the production by plants of compounds useful as medicines or raw materials for manufacture of medicines is influenced by ultraviolet radiation, particularly by UV-B radiation (280–315 nm wavelength). The compounds considered in this review are flavonoids and other phenolics, alkaloids (especially indole terpenoid and purine alkaloids), essential oils and other terpenoids, cannabinoids, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, and compounds having human hormone activity. A short account is also given of ultraviolet signalling in plants. The review concludes with a discussion of the possible evolutionary mechanisms that have led to the evolution of UV-B regulation of secondary metabolite accumulation.