Highlighting the need for systems-level experimental characterization of plant metabolic enzymes
Journal article, 2016
The biology of living organisms is determined by the action and interaction of a large number of individual gene products, each with specific functions. Discovering and annotating the function of gene products is key to our understanding of these organisms. Controlled experiments and bioinformatic predictions both contribute to functional gene annotation. For most species it is difficult to gain an overview of what portion of gene annotations are based on experiments and what portion represent predictions. Here, I survey the current state of experimental knowledge of enzymes and metabolism in Arabidopsis thaliana as well as eleven economically important crops and forestry trees-with a particular focus on reactions involving organic acids in central metabolism. I illustrate the limited availability of experimental data for functional annotation of enzymes in most of these species. Many enzymes involved in metabolism of citrate, malate, fumarate, lactate, and glycolate in crops and forestry trees have not been characterized. Furthermore, enzymes involved in key biosynthetic pathways which shape important traits in crops and forestry trees have not been characterized. I argue for the development of novel high-throughput platforms with which limited functional characterization of gene products can be performed quickly and relatively cheaply. I refer to this approach as systems-level experimental characterization. The data collected from such platforms would form a layer intermediate between bioinformatic gene function predictions and in-depth experimental studies of these functions. Such a data layer would greatly aid in the pursuit of understanding a multiplicity of biological processes in living organisms.
Organic acid metabolism
Proteome sequence homology
Functional gene annotation
Enzyme biochemical characterization