Specificities of enzymes involved in plant specialized metabolism, including flavonoid biosynthesis, are generally promiscuous. This enzyme promiscuity has served as an evolutionary basis for new enzyme functions and metabolic pathways in land plants adapting to environmental challenges. This phenomenon may lead, however, to inefficiency in specialized metabolism and adversely affect metabolite-mediated plant survival. How plants manage enzyme promiscuity for efficient specialized metabolism is, thus, an open question. Recent studies of flavonoid biosynthesis addressing this issue have revealed a conserved strategy, namely, a homolog of chalcone isomerase with no catalytic activity binds to chalcone synthase, a key flavonoid pathway enzyme, to narrow (or rectify) the enzyme's highly promiscuous product specificity. Reducing promiscuity via specific protein–protein interactions among metabolic enzymes and proteins may be a solution adopted by land plants to achieve efficient operation of specialized metabolism, while the intrinsic promiscuity of enzymes has likely been retained incidentally.
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