Myrosinase is a family of enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

s involved in plant defense against herbivores
Plant defense against herbivory
Plant defense against herbivory or host-plant resistance describes a range of adaptations evolved by plants which improve their survival and reproduction by reducing the impact of herbivores. Plants use several strategies to defend against damage caused by herbivores...

. Their structure has been elucidated and is available.

Myrosinase activity

Myrosinase is regarded as a defence-related enzyme and is capable of hydrolyzing glucosinolate
The glucosinolates are a class of organic compounds that contain sulfur and nitrogen and are derived from glucose and an amino acid. They occur as secondary metabolites of almost all plants of the order Brassicales , but also in the genus Drypetes .-Chemistry:Glucosinolates are water-soluble...

s into various compounds, some of which are toxic.

In the presence of water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, myrosinase cleaves off the glucose group from a glucosinolate. The remaining molecule then quickly converts to a thiocyanate
Thiocyanate is the anion [SCN]−. It is the conjugate base of thiocyanic acid. Common derivatives include the colourless salts potassium thiocyanate and sodium thiocyanate. Organic compounds containing the functional group SCN are also called thiocyanates...

, an isothiocyanate
Isothiocyanate is the chemical group –N=C=S, formed by substituting sulfur for oxygen in the isocyanate group. Many natural isothiocyanates from plants are produced by enzymatic conversion of metabolites called glucosinolates. These natural isothiocyanates, such as allyl isothiocyanate, are also...

 or a nitrile
A nitrile is any organic compound that has a -C≡N functional group. The prefix cyano- is used interchangeably with the term nitrile in industrial literature. Nitriles are found in many useful compounds, one example being super glue .Inorganic compounds containing the -C≡N group are not called...

; these are the active substances that serve as defense for the plant.

The glucosinolate-myrosinase defensive system is packaged in the plant in a unique manner. The degradative myrosinase enzymes, which catalyze the hydrolysis
Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction during which molecules of water are split into hydrogen cations and hydroxide anions in the process of a chemical mechanism. It is the type of reaction that is used to break down certain polymers, especially those made by condensation polymerization...

 of glucosinolate molecules, are largely stored within myrosin grains in myrosin cells, but have also been reported in protein bodies/vacuole
A vacuole is a membrane-bound organelle which is present in all plant and fungal cells and some protist, animal and bacterial cells. Vacuoles are essentially enclosed compartments which are filled with water containing inorganic and organic molecules including enzymes in solution, though in certain...

s, and as cytosolic enzymes which tend to bind to membranes . When the mechanism isolating the two compounds breaks down, such as by the destruction of plant matter by an herbivore, the myrosinase hydrolization of available glucosinolate substrate occurs.
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