To cope with environmental fluctuations and to prevent invasion by pathogens, plant metabolism must be flexible and dynamic. Active oxygen species, whose formation is accelerated under stress conditions, must be rapidly processed if oxidative damage is to be averted. The lifetime of active oxygen species within the cellular environment is determined by the antioxidative system, which provides crucial protection against oxidative damage. The antioxidative system comprises numerous enzymes and compounds of low molecular weight. While research into the former has benefited greatly from advances in molecular technology, the pathways by which the latter are synthesized have received comparatively little attention. The present review emphasizes the roles of ascorbate and glutathione in plant metabolism and stress tolerance. We provide a detailed account of current knowledge of the biosynthesis, compartmentation, and transport of these two important antioxidants, with emphasis on the unique insights and advances gained by molecular exploration.
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