What is the Difference Between Metabolites and Antimetabolites

The main difference between metabolites and antimetabolites is that metabolites are intermediates or end products of metabolism, whereas antimetabolites are chemicals that inhibit the use of metabolites. 

Metabolites and antimetabolites are two chemical compounds that occur in the metabolism. They are structurally similar.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Metabolites
– Definition, Facts, Features
2. What are Antimetabolites
– Definition, Facts, Features
3. Similarities Between Metabolites and Antimetabolites
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Metabolites and Antimetabolites
– Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Metabolites and Antimetabolites
– Answers to frequently asked questions

Key Terms  

Antimetabolites, Metabolites

Difference Between Metabolites and Antimetabolites - Comparison Summary

What are Metabolites

Metabolites are chemical substances produced during metabolism. Also, they are involved in metabolism. There are two types of metabolites: primary metabolites and secondary metabolites. Primary metabolites are small chemical compounds that are directly involved in the growth, development, and reproduction of living organisms. Therefore, they are key components in maintaining normal physiological functions in the body. Thus, primary metabolites are often referred to as central metabolites. Primary metabolites are usually formed during the growth phase due to energy metabolism.

Compare Metabolites and Antimetabolites

Figure 1: Glutamic Acid

Furthermore, secondary metabolites are small organic compounds produced by modifying primary metabolites. They are formed near the stationary phase of growth. Secondary metabolites do not play a role in growth, development, or reproduction. However, they play a role in ecological functions like defense mechanisms, serve as antibiotics, and produce pigments.

What are Antimetabolites

Antimetabolites are chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of cancer. They kill cancer or prevent tumor growth. Other chemotherapy drugs include alkylating agents and topoisomerase inhibitors. The main function of antimetabolites is to mimic the action of metabolites. For example, cancer cells require DNA replication, which requires metabolites such as purines, pyrimidines, and folic acid. Therefore, antimetabolites include purine antagonists, pyrimidine antagonists, and folic acid antagonists. Then, cancer cells are unable to synthesize DNA using antimetabolites. Significantly, antimetabolites are structurally similar to metabolites. But cells are unable to use them productively.

Metabolites vs Antimetabolites

Figure 2: Purines   

Similarities Between Metabolites and Antimetabolites

  • Metabolites and antimetabolites are two chemical compounds.
  • They are structurally similar.  

Difference Between Metabolites and Antimetabolites


Metabolites refer to any substance produced during metabolism. In contrast, antimetabolites refer to a substance that interferes with the normal metabolic processes within cells, typically by combining with enzymes.


Metabolites are produced during normal metabolism, while antimetabolites are not produced during normal metabolism. 


Metabolites can be used productively, while antimetabolites cannot be used productively.


Primary and secondary metabolites are the two types of metabolites, while purine antagonists, pyrimidine antagonists, and antifolates are the three types of antimetabolites. 


Metabolites include ethanol, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, 5′ guanylic acid, acetic acid, lactic acid, glycerol, etc., while antimetabolites include anticancer drugs, alkylating agents, and topoisomerase inhibitors.

FAQ: Metabolites and Antimetabolites

Do antimetabolites inhibit certain metabolites?

The chemical structure of antimetabolites is similar to essential metabolites. Antimetabolites either inhibit the synthesis of essential metabolites. Or they inhibit critical intracellular reactions. Therefore, they interfere with the formation, utilization, and inhibition of the essential metabolic routes. 

Are antimetabolites cell-specific?

Antimetabolites are cell cycle-specific. They are most effective during the S-phase of the cell cycle. Primarily, they act on cells that undergo new DNA synthesis. These cells grow and divide quickly. 

What are antimetabolites and enzymes of drug metabolism? 

Antimetabolites interfere with one or more enzymes in the DNA synthesis pathway. They substitute actual metabolites in the DNA synthesis pathway, affecting normal metabolism.


In brief, metabolites and antimetabolites are two chemical compound types. Metabolites are produced during the normal metabolism. They are used in a productive manner. Ethanol, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, 5′ guanylic acid, acetic acid, lactic acid, glycerol, etc. In comparison, antimetabolites are anticancer drugs. They are not produced during the normal metabolism. Cells cannot productively use them. Hence, the main difference between metabolites and antimetabolites is the usage by cells in a productive manner.   

  1. Metabolite. Biology Articles, Tutorials & Dictionary Online. (2021c, July 28). 
  2. professional, C. C. medical. (n.d.-t). What are antimetabolites?. Cleveland Clinic. 
Image Courtesy:
  1. L-Glutaminsäure – L-Glutamic acid” By NEUROtiker – Own Work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
  2. Blausen 0323 DNA Purines” By BruceBlaus.- Own Work (CC-BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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