Amino acid metabolism is among the most important and best recognized networks within biological systems. In plants, amino acids serve multiple functions associated with growth. Besides their function in protein synthesis, the amino acids are also catabolized into energy-associated metabolites as well we into numerous secondary metabolites, which are essential for plant growth and response to various stresses. Despite the central importance of amino acids in plants growth, elucidation of the regulation of amino acid metabolism within the context of the entire system, particularly transcriptional regulation, is still in its infancy. The different amino acids are synthesized by a number of distinct metabolic networks, which are expected to possess regulatory cross interactions between them for proper coordination of their interactive functions, such as incorporation into proteins. Yet, individual amino acid metabolic networks are also expected to differentially cross interact with various genome-wide gene expression programs and metabolic networks, in respect to their functions as precursors for various metabolites with distinct functions. In the present review, we discuss our recent genomics, metabolic and bioinformatics studies, which were aimed at addressing these questions, focusing mainly on the Asp-family metabolic network as the main example and also comparing it to the aromatic amino acids metabolic network as a second example (Angelovici et al. in Plant Physiol 151:2058–2072, 2009; Less and Galili in BMC Syst Biol 3:14, 2009; Tzin et al. in Plant J 60:156–167, 2009). Our focus on these two networks is because of the followings: (i) both networks are central to plant metabolism and growth and are also precursors for a wide range of primary and secondary metabolites that are indispensable to plant growth; (ii) the amino acids produced by these two networks are also essential to the nutrition and health of human and farm animals; and (iii) both networks contain branched pathways requiring extensive regulation of fluxes between the different branches. Additional views on the biochemistry, regulation and functional significance of the Asp-family and aromatic amino acid networks and some of their associated metabolites that are discussed in the present report, as well as the nutritional importance of Lys and Trp to human and farm animals, and attempts to improve Lys level in crop plants, can be obtained from the following reviews as examples (Radwanski and Last in Plant Cell 7:921–934, 1995; Halkier and Gershenzon in Annu Rev Plant Biol 57:303–333, 2006; Ufaz and Galili in Plant Physiol 147:954–961, 2008; Jander and Joshi in Mol Plant 3:54–65, 2010).
Amino acidsAspartate family pathwayLysineAromatic amino acidsBioinformaticsPlants