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Specialized metabolites are structurally diverse and cell- or tissue-specific molecules produced in restricted plant lineages. In contrast, primary metabolic pathways are highly conserved in plants and produce metabolites essential for all of life, such as amino acids and nucleotides. Substrate promiscuity - the capacity to accept non-native substrates - is a common characteristic of enzymes, and its impact is especially apparent in generating specialized metabolite variation. However, promiscuity only leads to metabolic diversity when alternative substrates are available; thus, enzyme cellular and subcellular localization directly influence chemical phenotypes. We review a variety of mechanisms that modulate substrate availability for promiscuous plant enzymes. We focus on examples where evolution led to modification of the 'cellular context' through changes in cell-type expression, subcellular relocalization, pathway sequestration, and cellular mixing via tissue damage. These varied mechanisms contributed to the emergence of structurally diverse plant specialized metabolites and inform future metabolic engineering approaches. © 2019 Federation of European Biochemical Societies.


Craig A Schenck, Robert L Last. Location, location! cellular relocalization primes specialized metabolic diversification. The FEBS journal. 2020 Apr;287(7):1359-1368

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PMID: 31623016

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