Difference Between Primary and Secondary Metabolites

What is Primary Metabolites?

Primary metabolites are substances which are directly involved in the metabolic pathways of an organism , which are necessary to its development, growth and reproduction. They are a part of the physiological processes that occur within the organism. Primary metabolites are generated in the body during the growth phase due to the mechanism of growth. The phase of growth which is associated with the creation of primary metabolites is referred to as ‘trophophase’..

The process of producing primary metabolites starts when the essential nutrients for the body are present in the body’s medium. They are found in a majority of cells throughout the body . They are also known as central metabolisms. Primary metabolites are essential in a variety of metabolic processes because they act as substrates to these functions, and others function as catalysts. Certain primary metabolites, like amino acids are widespread across the entire organism, while others are limited to certain cells or a few organisms. Although the primary metabolites play a crucial function in the development and growth of an individual, they don’t have any pharmacological effects or have any effect against other elements.


The creation of primary metabolites happens at a rapid rate since they are required constantly by the body. They can also be extracted with ease using simple extraction methods. Primary metabolites are classified into two categories; the primary essential metabolites as well as the primary end products of metabolism. The primary essential metabolites consist of the compounds such as carbohydrates and proteins that form the physiological and structural structure of the body. The the most important end products of metabolic metabolism are products such as lactic acid and alcohol that are the final products of many metabolic pathways. The most common primary compounds are carbohydrates, enzymes, proteins and lipids, vitamins as well as ethanol, lactic acids and butanol.

Examples of primary metabolites


Enzymes are proteins made by the human body by various organisms as principal metabolic products. Enzymes are vital substances that are responsible for catalyzing various metabolic pathways within the body. Enzymes are proteins made up by polypeptide chains composed of amino acids. They are extremely specific to the reactions they are able to catalyze. If enzymes were not present then biological reactions would take an extended time to be completed.


They are a conservative group and are not used up through chemical reactions. They are involved in nearly every metabolic pathway that range from cell respiration to digestive and absorption. The enzymes that are produced by various organisms are extracted for usage in industry for processes such as the fermentation of wine, leavening of bread, the curdling of cheese, and the brewing of beer. A few examples of enzymes include amylases, lipases, proteases etc.


Carbohydrate is an assortment of organic compounds that play a crucial function in the physiological and structural elements of all living creatures. Carbohydrates are among the important metabolites of the first order that are found throughout all living organisms. Carbohydrates are biomolecules made up from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They give structure to organisms such as cellulose in plants, and peptidoglycans in bacteria. Additionally, they are compounds that can be oxidized in order to generate energy for the development and functioning that the organism.


Carbohydrates come in a variety of forms according to their dimensions and the composition. They are also classified by their purpose. Carbohydrates serve as the primary an important substrate for biological processes such as Kreb’s cycle and glycolysis. Monosaccharides also play a role in the creation of macromolecules, and could serve as storage for fuel and energy. Examples of carbohydrates are glycogen, glucose, cellulose and chitin. They also include peptidoglycan, chit and so on.

What is Secondary Metabolites?

Secondary metabolites are organic compounds created by various organisms. They do not play a role in the development, growth or reproduction of an organism, but are vital to the environmental and other aspects. Secondary metabolites are also referred to as special metabolites or natural substances. Since secondary metabolites aren’t associated with the growth and development of an organism In the absence of these substances has very little or no impact on the survival for the living organism. In the long term, minor effects may be observed.


Certain secondary metabolites are unique to a specific species and are only found in that species however, the transfer of horizontal metabolic compounds between species has been proven as having a significant function for the development of certain species. While they’re not crucial in terms of survival Secondary metabolites could be essential for other purposes such as protection, competition and interspecies interaction. Secondary metabolites can be classified into groups according to their biosynthetic source. Certain secondary metabolites are the result of the derivation of the primary metabolisms.

They also form in the stationary growth phase in the majority of organisms. This stage of growth is known as idiophase. The majority of secondary metabolites serve as an effective defense against foreign invaders. They are produced in smaller amounts and are therefore difficult to isolate. Secondary metabolites also aren’t included in the molecular structure of an organism.


Certain categories of secondary metabolites are used in various biotechnological processes for the production of drugs and other substances. Since secondary metabolites have a particularity to a specific species, various secondary metabolites can be found in a variety of processes. Examples of secondary metabolites are steroids, essential oils alkaloids, phenolics antibiotics, and others.

Examples of secondary metabolites


Pigments are substances of a variety of shades that are made by various organisms to serve various reasons. They are secondary metabolites, and are produced by different organisms, including bacteria and plants. Plant pigments, like chlorophyll, are vital for processes such as photosynthesis, while bacteria’s pigments are taken and utilized in industry as dyes. They are generally non-toxic and could even have medicinal significance and are used as antioxidants or additives. The production of industrial-grade pigments from bacteria use by microbial fermentation offers many advantages, including lower cost of production, more efficient extraction, better yields via the improvement of strains, no shortage in raw material, as well as they are not seasonally-based. Biopigments made from microorganisms are preferable to those made from plants due to their durability and the fact that they are available for cultivation all the season. Some examples of these pigments are chlorophyll, astaxanthinand zeaxanthin indigoidine, rhodopsin and many more.



Flavonoids are a secondary metabolite in plants, which are found in all vegetables and fruits. They are phytonutrients, which is a plants chemical that provide some coloration for many animals and plants. They are among the most extensive groups of phytonutrients in plants, with more than 600 varieties known. They are important antioxidants, which have benefits for immune system and anti-inflammatory. They also contain antimicrobials photoreceptors visually attractors, food repellants and light-screening functions. Flavonoids are believed to regulate the development of specific organs and plants in general; and, consequently, can influence the morphogenic response of stress of plants. Flavonoids can play an important role as signals in mammals due to their ability to connect with a variety of protein Kinases. A few examples of flavonoids discovered in different vascular plants are Apigenin, Luteolin, Hesperetin, Genistein, etc.

Difference Between Primary and Secondary Metabolites – Primary vs Secondary Metabolites

Basis for ComparisonPrimary MetabolitesSecondary Metabolites
DefinitionPrimary metabolites are substances that directly participate in the metabolism of an organism that are essential to its growth, development and reproduction.Secondary metabolites are organic compounds produced by various organisms. They’re of no direct involvement in development, growth or reproduction of an organism, but are crucial to the other aspects of the ecology.
Also known asPrimary metabolites are also referred to as central metabolisms.Secondary metabolites are also referred to as specific metabolic compounds.
Phase of growthPrimary metabolites are created in the growing stage that the living organism goes through.Secondary metabolites are formed in the stationary phase of the organism.
This growth phase is also referred to as trophophase..This growth phase is sometimes referred to as an idiophase’.
QuantityPrimary metabolites are created in large amounts.Secondary metabolites are created in very small amounts.
ExtractionIt is much easier to isolate the principal metabolites.It isn’t easy to isolate secondary metabolites.
SpecificityPrimary metabolites aren’t species-specific and, therefore, could be similar in different organisms.Secondary metabolites are particular to the species they are in and therefore are distinct for different species.
Involved inPrimary metabolites are essential to the development, growth, and reproduction of organisms.Secondary metabolites are implicated in ecological functions as well as interactions between species.
Structural componentPrimary metabolites may create the molecular structure of living organisms.Secondary metabolites aren’t component within the molecular structure the organism.
ImportancePrimary metabolites are employed in a variety of industries for various reasons.Secondary metabolites are employed in a variety of biotechnological processes for the creation of drugs as well as other compounds.
Action defensivePrimary metabolites do not play a role as defense mechanisms.Secondary metabolites fight foreign invaders, and may serve as defense mechanisms.
ExamplesThe most common examples of primary metabolites are proteins as well as enzymes, carbohydrates vitamins, ethanol, lipids and lactic acid, butanol and many more.A few examples of secondary metabolites are steroids, essential oils pigments, alkaloids, phenolics as well as antibiotics.

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