Plants are a sustainable resource for valuable natural chemicals best illustrated by large-scale farming centered on specific products. Here, we review recent discoveries of plant metabolic pathways producing natural products with unconventional biomolecular structures. Prenylation of polyketides by aromatic prenyltransferases (aPTases) ties together two of the major groups of plant specialized chemicals, terpenoids and polyketides, providing a core modification leading to new bioactivities and downstream metabolic processing. Moreover, PTases that biosynthesize Z-terpenoid precursors for small molecules such as lycosantalene have recently been found in the tomato family. Gaps in our understanding of how economically important compounds such as cannabinoids are produced are being identified using next-generation ‘omics’ to rapidly advance biochemical breakthroughs at an unprecedented rate. For instance, olivetolic acid cyclase, a polyketide synthase (PKS) co-factor from Cannabis sativa, directs the proper cyclization of a polyketide intermediate. Elucidations of spatial and temporal arrangements of biosynthetic enzymes into metabolons, such as those used to control the efficient production of natural polymers such as rubber and defensive small molecules such as linamarin and lotaustralin, provide blueprints for engineering streamlined production of plant products.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.