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      Essential Oils’ Chemical Characterization and Investigation of Some Biological Activities: A Critical Review


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          This review covers literature data summarizing, on one hand, the chemistry of essential oils and, on the other hand, their most important activities. Essential oils, which are complex mixtures of volatile compounds particularly abundant in aromatic plants, are mainly composed of terpenes biogenerated by the mevalonate pathway. These volatile molecules include monoterpenes (hydrocarbon and oxygenated monoterpens), and also sesquiterpenes (hydrocarbon and oxygenated sesquiterpens). Furthermore, they contain phenolic compounds, which are derived via the shikimate pathway. Thanks to their chemical composition, essential oils possess numerous biological activities (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, etc…) of great interest in food and cosmetic industries, as well as in the human health field.

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          Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils.

          The volatile oils of black pepper [Piper nigrum L. (Piperaceae)], clove [Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. & Perry (Myrtaceae)], geranium [Pelargonium graveolens L'Herit (Geraniaceae)], nutmeg [Myristica fragrans Houtt. (Myristicaceae), oregano [Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum (Link) Letsw. (Lamiaceae)] and thyme [Thymus vulgaris L. (Lamiaceae)] were assessed for antibacterial activity against 25 different genera of bacteria. These included animal and plant pathogens, food poisoning and spoilage bacteria. The volatile oils exhibited considerable inhibitory effects against all the organisms under test while their major components demonstrated various degrees of growth inhibition.
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            Free radicals, oxidative stress, and antioxidants in human health and disease

            Free radicals and other reactive oxygen species (ROS) are constantly formed in the human body. Free-radical mechanisms have been implicated in the pathology of several human diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases. For example, the superoxide radical (O2 ·−) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) are known to be generated in the brain and nervous system in vivo, and several areas of the human brain are rich in iron, which appears to be easily mobilizable in a form that can stimulate free-radical reactions. Antioxidant defenses to remove O2 ·− and H2O2 exist. Superoxide dismutases (SOD) remove O2 ·− by greatly accelerating its conversion to H2O2. Catalases in peroxisomes convert H2O2 into water and O2 and help to dispose of H2O2 generated by the action of the oxidase enzymes that are located in these organelles. Other important H2O2-removing enzymes in human cells are the glutathione peroxidases. When produced in excess, ROS can cause tissue injury. However, tissue injury can itself cause ROS generation (e.g., by causing activation of phagocytes or releasing transition metal ions from damaged cells), which may (or may not, depending on the situation) contribute to a worsening of the injury. Assessment of oxidative damage to biomolecules by means of emerging technologies based on products of oxidative damage to DNA (e.g., 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine), lipids (e.g., isoprostanes), and proteins (altered amino acids) would not only advance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms but also facilitate supplementation and intervention studies designed and conducted to test antioxidant efficacy in human health and disease.
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              In plants the biosynthesis of prenyllipids and isoprenoids proceeds via two independent pathways: (a) the cytosolic classical acetate/mevalonate pathway for the biosynthesis of sterols, sesquiterpenes, triterpenoids; and (b) the alternative, non-mevalonate 1-deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate (DOXP) pathway for the biosynthesis of plastidic isoprenoids, such as carotenoids, phytol (a side-chain of chlorophylls), plastoquinone-9, isoprene, mono-, and diterpenes. Both pathways form the active C5-unit isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) as the precursor from which all other isoprenoids are formed via head-to-tail addition. This review summarizes current knowledge of the novel 1-deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate (DOXP) pathway for isopentenyl diphosphate biosynthesis, apparently located in plastids. The DOXP pathway of IPP formation starts from D-glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (GA-3-P) and pyruvate, with DOXP-synthase as the starting enzyme. This pathway provides new insight into the regulation of chloroplast metabolism.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Role: Academic Editor
                Role: Academic Editor
                Medicines (Basel)
                Medicines (Basel)
                22 September 2016
                December 2016
                : 3
                : 4
                : 25
                [1 ]UR Ecophysiologie Environnementale et Procédés Agroalimentaires, Institut Supérieur de Biotechnologie de Sidi Thabet, BiotechPole de Sidi Thabet, Université de la Manouba, Ariana 2020, Tunisia; wissal_d2002@ 123456yahoo.fr
                [2 ]LR11-ES31 Laboratory of Biotechnology and Valorisation of Bio-GeoRessources (BVBGR), Higher Institute of Biotechnology of Sidi Thabet (ISBST), Biotechpole Sidi Thabet, University of Manouba, Ariana 2020, Tunisia; bel-sana@ 123456hotmail.fr (S.B.); jazi.gb@ 123456gmail.com (S.J.); nada.bahloul@ 123456gmail.com (N.B.)
                [3 ]Faculté des Sciences de Bizerte, Jarzouna-Bizerte, Université de Carthage, Carthage 7021, Tunisia
                [4 ]Faculty of Sciences and Arts in Balgarn, PO BOX 60 Balgarn, University of Bisha, Sabt Al Alaya 61985, Saudi Arabia
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: w_mnif@ 123456yahoo.fr ; Tel.: +216-98-94-73-71
                © 2016 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 02 March 2016
                : 02 September 2016

                essential oils,chemical composition,biological activities


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