The evolution of natural product biosynthetic pathways can be envisioned to occur via a number of mechanisms. In the present study we provide evidence that latent plasticity plays a role in such metabolic evolution. In particular, rice (Oryza sativa) produces both ent- and syn-CPP (copalyl diphosphate), which are substrates for downstream diterpene synthases. In the present paper we report that several members of this enzymatic family exhibit dual reactivity with some pairing of ent-, syn- or normal CPP stereochemistry. Evident plasticity was observed, as a previously reported ent-sandaracopimaradiene synthase also converts syn-CPP into syn-labda-8(17),12E,14-triene, which can be found in planta. Notably, normal CPP is not naturally found in rice. Thus the presence of diterpene synthases that react with this non-native metabolite reveals latent enzymatic/metabolic plasticity, providing biochemical capacity for utilization of such a novel substrate (i.e. normal CPP) which may arise during evolution, the implications of which are discussed.

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