Cotransformed hairy roots containing a gene that encodes a fungal elicitor protein, β-cryptogein, were established in Withania somnifera, a medicinal plant widely used in Indian systems of medicine. To find out whether β- cryptogein protein endogenously elicits the pathway of withasteroid biosynthesis, withaferin A and withanolide A contents along with transcript accumulation of farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP) synthase, 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGR), and sterol glycosyltransferase (SGT) were analyzed in both cryptogein-cotransformed and normal hairy roots of W. somnifera. It was observed that the withaferin A and withanolide A contents were drastically higher in normal hairy roots than cryptogein-cotransformed ones. Similar trends were also observed on the levels of transcript accumulation. Subsequently, the enzyme activity of phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL), one of the key enzymes of phenylpropanoid pathway, was measured in both cryptogein-cotransformed and normal hairy roots of W. somnifera along with the levels of PAL transcript accumulation. Upliftment of PAL activity was observed in cryptogein-cotransformed hairy roots as compared to the normal ones, and the PAL expression also reflected a similar trend, i.e., enhanced expression in the cryptogeincotransformed lines. Upliftment of wall-bound ferulic acid accumulation was also observed in the cryptogeincotransformed lines, as compared to normal hairy root lines. Thus, the outcome of the above studies suggests a metabolic shift from withanolide accumulation to phenylpropanoid biosynthesis in cryptogein-cotransformed hairy roots of W. somnifera. © Springer-Verlag Wien 2014.