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Biosynthesis of Plant Volatiles: Nature's Diversity and Ingenuity

Plant volatiles (PVs) are lipophilic molecules with high vapor pressure that serve various ecological roles. The synthesis of PVs involves the removal of hydrophilic moieties and oxidation/hydroxylation, reduction, methylation, and acylation reactions. Some PV biosynthetic enzymes produce multiple products from a single substrate or act on multiple substrates. Genes for PV biosynthesis evolve by duplication of genes that direct other aspects of plant metabolism; these duplicated genes then diverge from each other over time. Changes in the preferred substrate or resultant product of PV enzymes may occur through minimal changes of critical residues. Convergent evolution is often responsible for the ability of distally related species to synthesize the same volatile.

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Resource Type: Journal article/Issue, Illustration
Audience Level: Undergraduate lower division 13-14, Undergraduate upper division 15-16, Graduate, Professional (degree program), Continuing education

Author and Copyright


Authors and Editors: Natalia Dudareva of Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University, Joseph P. Noel of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Eran Pichersky of Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics, University of Michigan
Publisher: AAAS
Format: text/html
Copyright and other restrictions: Yes
Cost: No

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