Linking genomics and metabolomics to chart specialized metabolic diversity
Microbial and plant specialized metabolites constitute an immense chemical diversity, and play key roles in mediating ecological interactions between organisms. Also referred to as natural products, they have been widely applied in medicine, agriculture, cosmetic and food industries. Traditionally, the main discovery strategies have centered around the use of activity-guided fractionation of metabolite extracts. Increasingly, omics data is being used to complement this, as it has the potential to reduce rediscovery rates, guide experimental work towards the most promising metabolites, and identify enzymatic pathways that enable their biosynthetic production. In recent years, genomic and metabolomic analyses of specialized metabolic diversity have been scaled up to study thousands of samples simultaneously. Here, we survey data analysis technologies that facilitate the effective exploration of large genomic and metabolomic datasets, and discuss various emerging strategies to integrate these two types of omics data in order to further accelerate discovery.