Plant biosynthetic gene clusters in the context of metabolic evolution

Samuel J. Smit, Benjamin R. Lichman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Covering: up to 2022 Plants produce a wide range of structurally and biosynthetically diverse natural products to interact with their environment. These specialised metabolites typically evolve in limited taxonomic groups presumably in response to specific selective pressures. With the increasing availability of sequencing data, it has become apparent that in many cases the genes encoding biosynthetic enzymes for specialised metabolic pathways are not randomly distributed on the genome. Instead they are physically linked in structures such as arrays, pairs and clusters. The exact function of these clusters is debated. In this review we take a broad view of gene arrangement in plant specialised metabolism, examining types of structures and variation. We discuss the evolution of biosynthetic gene clusters in the wider context of metabolism, populations and epigenetics. Finally, we synthesise our observations to propose a new hypothesis for biosynthetic gene cluster formation in plants.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Thilo Winzer, Ian Graham and Daniel Jeffares for comments on the manuscript. SJS is funded by the BBSRC (BB/V006452/1). BRL is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (MR/S01862X/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Royal Society of Chemistry

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