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Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2020 Mar 16. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-081519-035634. [Epub ahead of print]

Exploring Uncharted Territories of Plant Specialized Metabolism in the Postgenomic Era.

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Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA, email:
Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


For millennia, humans have used plants for food, raw materials, and medicines, but only within the past two centuries have we begun to connect particular plant metabolites with specific properties and utilities. Since the utility of classical molecular genetics beyond model species is limited, the vast specialized metabolic systems present in the Earth's flora remain largely unstudied. With an explosion in genomics resources and a rapidly expanding toolbox over the past decade, exploration of plant specialized metabolism in nonmodel species is becoming more feasible than ever before. We review the state-of-the-art tools that have enabled this rapid progress. We present recent examples of de novo biosynthetic pathway discovery that employ various innovative approaches. We also draw attention to the higher-order organization of plant specialized metabolism at subcellular, cellular, tissue, interorgan, and interspecies levels, which will have important implications for the future design of comprehensive metabolic engineering strategies. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Plant Biology, Volume 71 is April 29, 2020. Please see for revised estimates.

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