Those are just some of thousands of specialized or secondary metabolites that plats use as chemical ammunition to protect themselves from predation. However, for years scientists have been confused on identifying the networks of genes that plants use to make these biologically active compounds, which are the source of many drugs people use and abuse today. This had hindered efforts to produce new and improved therapeutics. At Vanderbilt University, geneticists think they have discovered an effective and powerful new way to identify these gene networks, which usually consist of a handful to dozens of different genes. They hypothesized that the genes within a network that work together to make a specific compound would all respond similarly to the same environmental conditions. To test this, they looked at data rom more than 22,000 gene expression studies performed on eight different model plant species. The result of all of this number crunching was the identification of dozens, possibly hundreds of gene pathways that produce small metabolites, including several that previous experiments had identified.
Cocaine, Nicotine, and Capsaicin