Review

The Rise of Chemodiversity in Plants

Science  29 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6089, pp. 1667-1670
DOI: 10.1126/science.1217411

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Abstract

Plants possess multifunctional and rapidly evolving specialized metabolic enzymes. Many metabolites do not appear to be immediately required for survival; nonetheless, many may contribute to maintaining population fitness in fluctuating and geographically dispersed environments. Others may serve no contemporary function but are produced inevitably as minor products by single enzymes with varying levels of catalytic promiscuity. The dominance of the terrestrial realm by plants likely mirrored expansion of specialized metabolism originating from primary metabolic pathways. Compared with their evolutionarily constrained counterparts in primary metabolism, specialized metabolic enzymes may be more tolerant to mutations normally considered destabilizing to protein structure and function. If this is true, permissiveness may partially explain the pronounced chemodiversity of terrestrial plants.

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