Department of Biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Title:”Metabolic Evolution in Plants”
Metabolic pathways are often considered “perfected” or at least predictable as substrates efficiently rearrange into products through the intervention of an optimized enzyme. Moreover, single catalytic steps link up, forming a myriad of metabolic circuits that are often modeled with a high degree of certainty. However, on closer examination, most enzymes are not precise with respect to their activity, using not just one substrate but often a variety and producing not just one product but a diversity. Hence, the metabolic systems assembled from enzymes possessing varying degrees of what can be termed catalytic promiscuity are not clear-cut and restrictive; rather, they may at times operate stochastically in the intracellular milieu. This “messiness” complicates our understanding of normal and aberrant cellular behavior, while paradoxically sowing the seeds for future advantageous metabolic adaptations for host organisms. In this talk, I will discuss the evolutionary implication of catalytic promiscuity widely observed in plant specialized metabolic systems and how the systems-level promiscuity in plant metabolism could be harnessed through synthetic biology approaches to generate new chemical entities for chemical and pharmaceutical industries. I will also discuss new frontiers in elucidating mechanisms of action underlying traditional herbal medicine.
Location: 108 Biochemistry Building (Bldg#1507)