Effect of the environment on the secondary metabolic profile of Tithonia diversifolia: a model for environmental metabolomics of plants

Bruno Leite Sampaio, RuAngelie Edrada-Ebel, Fernando Batista Da Costa

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Tithonia diversifolia is an invasive weed commonly found in tropical ecosystems. In this work, we investigate the influence of different abiotic environmental factors on the plant's metabolite profile by multivariate statistical analyses of spectral data deduced by UHPLC-DAD-ESI-HRMS and NMR methods. Different plant part samples of T. diversifolia which included leaves, stems, roots, and inflorescences were collected from two Brazilian states throughout a 24-month period, along with the corresponding monthly environmental data. A metabolomic approach employing concatenated LC-MS and NMR data was utilised for the first time to study the relationships between environment and plant metabolism. A seasonal pattern was observed for the occurrence of metabolites that included sugars, sesquiterpenes lactones and phenolics in the leaf and stem parts, which can be correlated to the amount of rainfall and changes in temperature. The distribution of the metabolites in the inflorescence and root parts were mainly affected by variation of some soil nutrients such as Ca, Mg, P, K and Cu. We highlight the environment-metabolism relationship for T. diversifolia and the combined analytical approach to obtain reliable data that contributed to a holistic understanding of the influence of abiotic environmental factors on the production of metabolites in various plant parts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29265
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2016


  • Tithonia diversifolia
  • invasive weed
  • tropical ecosystems
  • metabolite profile
  • rainfall
  • temperature
  • soil nutrients
  • environment-metabolism relationship
  • abiotic environmental factors

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