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Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules. A primary metabolite is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. A secondary metabolite is not directly involved in those processes, but usually has an important ecological function. Examples include antibiotics and pigments.

The metabolome forms a large network of metabolic reactions, where outputs from one enzymatic chemical reaction are inputs to other chemical reactions.

Metabolites from chemical compounds, whether inherent or pharmaceutical, are formed as part of the natural biochemical process of degrading and eliminating the compounds. The rate of degradation of a compound is an important determinant of the duration and intensity of its action. Profiling metabolites of pharmaceutical compounds, drug metabolism, is an important part of drug discovery, leading to an understanding of any undesirable side effects.

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