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The shikimate pathway consists of seven enzymatic reactions whose end product chorismate is the precursor for the synthesis of the aromatic amino acids Phe, Tyr and Trp. In fungi and plants, chorismate is a precursor for many specialised metabolites (i.e. secondary metabolites) that play an important role in the plant's interaction with its environment. The shikimate pathway and aromatic amino acid biosynthesis have been extensively studied in a variety of microorganisms, fungi and plants. Furthermore, the dual involvement of the shikimate and aromatic amino acid biosynthesis pathways in central and specialised metabolism still raises major questions regarding the genes and enzymes involved, and their control, their evolutionary origins and coordinated regulation with genes of associated pathways in response to altered environmental conditions and diverse developmental programs.