Genomic signatures of specialized metabolism in plants

Science. 2014 May 2;344(6183):510-3. doi: 10.1126/science.1252076.


All plants synthesize basic metabolites needed for survival (primary metabolism), but different taxa produce distinct metabolites that are specialized for specific environmental interactions (specialized metabolism). Because evolutionary pressures on primary and specialized metabolism differ, we investigated differences in the emergence and maintenance of these processes across 16 species encompassing major plant lineages from algae to angiosperms. We found that, relative to their primary metabolic counterparts, genes coding for specialized metabolic functions have proliferated to a much greater degree and by different mechanisms and display lineage-specific patterns of physical clustering within the genome and coexpression. These properties illustrate the differential evolution of specialized metabolism in plants, and collectively they provide unique signatures for the potential discovery of novel specialized metabolic processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genome, Plant
  • Genomics
  • Metabolism / genetics
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome*