Variation on a theme: the structures and biosynthesis of specialized fatty acid natural products in plants

Samuel Scott, Edgar B. Cahoon, Lucas Busta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Plants are able to construct lineage-specific natural products from a wide array of their core metabolic pathways. Considerable progress has been made toward documenting and understanding, for example, phenylpropanoid natural products derived from phosphoenolpyruvate via the shikimate pathway, terpenoid compounds built using isopentyl pyrophosphate, and alkaloids generated by the extensive modification of amino acids. By comparison, natural products derived from fatty acids have received little attention, except for unusual fatty acids in seed oils and jasmonate-like oxylipins. However, scattered but numerous reports show that plants are able to generate many structurally diverse compounds from fatty acids, including some with highly elaborate and unique structural features that have novel bioproduct functionalities. Furthermore, although recent work has shed light on multiple new fatty acid natural product biosynthesis pathways and products in diverse plant species, these discoveries have not been reviewed. The aims of this work, therefore, are to (i) review and systematize our current knowledge of the structures and biosynthesis of fatty acid-derived natural products that are not seed oils or jasmonate-type oxylipins, specifically, polyacetylenic, very-long-chain, and aromatic fatty acid-derived natural products, and (ii) suggest priorities for future investigative steps that will bring our knowledge of fatty acid-derived natural products closer to the levels of knowledge that we have attained for other phytochemical classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)954-965
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • fatty acid biosynthesis
  • natural products
  • polyacetylenes
  • specialized metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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