Plant defence metabolites are considered costly due to diversion of energy and nutrients away from growth. These costs combined with changes in resource availability and herbivory throughout plant ontogeny are likely to promote changes in defence metabolites. A comprehensive understanding of plant defence strategy requires measurement of lifetime ontogenetic trajectories--a dynamic component largely overlooked in plant defence theories. This study aimed to compare ontogenetic trajectories of foliar phenolics and terpenoids. Phenolics are predicted to be inexpensive to biosynthesize, whereas expensive terpenoids also require specialized, non-photosynthetic secretory structures to avoid autotoxicity. Based on these predicted costs, it is hypothesized that phenolics would be maximally deployed early in ontogeny, whereas terpenoids would be maximally deployed later, once the costs of biosynthesis and foregone photosynthesis could be overcome by enhanced resource acquisition.
Plants are sessile organisms and dependent on deployment of secondary metabolites for their response to biotic and abiotic challenges. A trade-off is envisioned between resources allocated to growth, development, and reproduction and to the biosynthesis, storage, and maintenance of secondary metabolites. However, increasing evidence suggests that secondary metabolites serve auxiliary roles, including functions associated with primary metabolism. In this opinion article, we examine how the costs of plant chemical defense can be offset by multifunctional biosynthesis and the optimization of primary metabolism. These additional benefits may negate the trade-off between primary and secondary metabolism, and provide plants with an innate plasticity required for growth, development, and interactions with their environment.
The glycosylation of lipophilic small molecules produces many important plant secondary metabolites. The majority of these are O-glycosides with relatively fewer occurring as glucose esters of aromatic or aliphatic acids. In particular, monoterpene acid glucose esters have much lower structural diversity and distribution compared to monoterpene glycosides. Nevertheless, there have been over 20 monoterpene acid glucose esters described from trees in the genus Eucalyptus (Myrtaceae) in recent years, all based on oleuropeic acid, menthiafolic acid or both. Here we review all of the glucose esters containing these monoterpenoids identified in plants to date. Many of the compounds contain phenolic aglycones and all contain at least one ?,?-unsaturated carbonyl, affording a number of important potential therapeutic reactivities such as anti-tumor promotion, carcinogenesis suppression, and anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Additional properties such as cytotoxicity, bitterness, and repellency are suggestive of a role in plant defence, but we also discuss their localization to the exterior of foliar secretory cavity lumina, and suggest they may also protect secretory cells from toxic terpenes housed within these structures. Finally we discuss how the use of a recently developed protocol to isolate secretory cavities in a functional state could be used in conjunction with systems biology approaches to help characterize their biosynthesis and roles in plants.
The cyanogenic glucoside profile of Eucalyptus camphora was investigated in the course of plant ontogeny. In addition to amygdalin, three phenylalanine-derived cyanogenic diglucosides characterized by unique linkage positions between the two glucose moieties were identified in E. camphora tissues. This is the first time that multiple cyanogenic diglucosides have been shown to co-occur in any plant species. Two of these cyanogenic glucosides have not previously been reported and are named eucalyptosin B and eucalyptosin C. Quantitative and qualitative differences in total cyanogenic glucoside content were observed across different stages of whole plant and tissue ontogeny, as well as within different tissue types. Seedlings of E. camphora produce only the cyanogenic monoglucoside prunasin, and genetically based variation was observed in the age at which seedlings initiate prunasin biosynthesis. Once initiated, total cyanogenic glucoside concentration increased throughout plant ontogeny with cyanogenic diglucoside production initiated in saplings and reaching a maximum in flower buds of adult trees. The role of multiple cyanogenic glucosides in E. camphora is unknown, but may include enhanced plant defense and/or a primary role in nitrogen storage and transport.
The role of ABA as the primary long-distance signal produced by water-stressed roots and transported to stomata continues to be challenged. We have recently reported that expression of ABA biosynthetic genes in roots only increases in the later stage of water stress. Our results support the hypothesis that in early water stress, increased levels of ABA in xylem sap are due to leaf biosynthesis and translocation to roots and from there to xylem. If so, other xylem-borne chemicals may be the primary stress signal(s) inducing ABA biosynthesis in leaves. We found that apart from ABA, sulfate was the only xylem-borne chemical that consistently showed higher concentrations from early to later water stress. We also found increased expression of a sulfate transporter gene in roots from early water stress onwards. Moreover, using bioassays we found an interactive effect of ABA and sulfate in decreasing maize transpiration rate, as compared to ABA alone. While ABA is undoubtedly the key mediator of water stress responses such as stomatal closure, it may not be the primary signal produced by roots perceiving water stress.
The pharmaceutical alkaloid huperzine A (HupA), currently used in herbal supplements and medicines worldwide, is predominantly sourced from the Chinese lycopod Huperzia serrata (Thunb. ex Murray) Trev. (Lycopodiaceae), which on average contains only 0.08 mg HupA g(-1) dry weight, and is experiencing a rapid decline in China due to over-harvesting.
Short syntheses of cuniloside B and cypellocarpin C, (+)-(R)-oleuropeic acid-containing carbohydrates, are reported. Also disclosed are syntheses of the noreugenin glycosides, undulatoside A and corymbosins K(1) and K(2). Leaf extracts of 28 diverse eucalypts revealed cuniloside B to be present in all, and cypellocarpin C to be present in most, of the species examined. The widespread occurrence of these carbohydrate monoterpenoid esters supports their roles in essential oil biosynthesis or mobilization from sites of synthesis to secretory cavity lumena.
The biosynthesis of plant natural products in sub-dermal secretory cavities is poorly understood at the molecular level, largely due to the difficulty of physically isolating these structures for study. Our aim was to develop a protocol for isolating live and intact sub-dermal secretory cavities, and to do this, we used leaves from three species of Eucalyptus with cavities that are relatively large and rich in essential oils.
Recent reports suggest that early sensing of soil water stress by plant roots and the concomitant reduction in stomatal conductance may not be mediated by root-sourced abscisic acid (ABA), but that other xylem-borne chemicals may be the primary stress signal(s). To gain more insight into the role of root-sourced ABA, the timing and location of the expression of genes for key enzymes involved in ABA biosynthesis in Zea mays roots was measured and a comprehensive analysis of root xylem sap constituents from the early to the later stages of water stress was conducted. Xylem sap and roots were sampled from plants at an early stage of water stress when only a reduction in leaf conductance was measured, as well as at later stages when leaf xylem pressure potential decreased. It was found that the majority of ABA biosynthetic genes examined were only significantly expressed in the elongation region of roots at a later stage of water stress. Apart from ABA, sulphate was the only xylem-borne chemical that consistently showed significantly higher concentrations from the early to the later stages of stress. Moreover, there was an interactive effect of ABA and sulphate in decreasing maize transpiration rate and Vicia faba stomatal aperture, as compared to ABA alone. The expression of a sulphate transporter gene was also analysed and it was found that it had increased in the elongation region of roots from the early to the later stages of water stress. Our results support the suggestion that in the early stage of water stress, increased levels of ABA in xylem sap may not be due to root biosynthesis, ABA glucose ester catabolism or pH-mediated redistribution, but may be due to shoot biosynthesis and translocation to the roots. The analysis of xylem sap mineral content and bioassays indicate that the anti-transpirant effect of the ABA reaching the stomata at the early stages of water stress may be enhanced by the increased concentrations of sulphate in the xylem which is also transported from the roots to the leaves.
A micropropagation protocol was recently developed for Eucalyptus polybractea R.T. Baker, a commercially important eucalypt grown in short-rotation coppice cultivation and harvested for its foliar 1,8-cineole oil. Micropropagation of elite E. polybractea trees has resulted in selection gains for foliar oil traits, but decreased above-ground biomass accumulation has been observed in clones compared to related half-sibling families. This study aims to use a greenhouse study to investigate if micropropagation induces somaclonal variation that can account for the reduction in above-ground biomass in E. polybractea clones. Secondly, the study aims to compare the coppicing ability of micropropagated clones with related half-sibling seedlings using de-topped plantation-grown saplings. The results of the greenhouse study suggest that micropropagation of E. polybractea induces somaclonal variation that manifests in more mature leaf morphologies such as increased foliar oil concentrations and lower specific leaf area (SLA), attributable to an isobilateral arrangement of increased palisade mesophyll layers. Lower SLA, rather than differences in root allocation, is likely to be a key contributor to the lower relative growth rates observed in early sapling growth of micropropagated clones. In the field study, all micropropagated and seedling-derived E. polybractea saplings coppiced vigorously in the 12 months after de-topping. The coppice growth was so vigorous in the 12 months after de-topping that total above-ground biomass equalled that of the 27-month-old saplings, irrespective of propagation source. The morphological distinction between leaves of micropropagated and seed-derived plants was no longer evident in the coppice regrowth. The results presented here suggest that the micropropagated leaf morphology and the resultant growth reduction is transient and micropropagated plants coppice just as vigorously as seed-derived plants. Therefore, micropropagation is unlikely to detrimentally influence above-ground biomass accumulation beyond the first harvest rotation.
The essential oils extracted from the embedded foliar secretory cavities of many Eucalyptus species are of economic value as pharmaceuticals and fragrance additives. Recent studies have indicated that Eucalyptus secretory cavities may not be exclusively involved in the biosynthesis and storage of essential oils. Therefore, we selected three species upon which to perform an examination of the contents of foliar secretory cavities: Eucalyptus froggattii, E. polybractea and E. globulus. This paper describes the isolation and structural characterization of two non-volatile glucose monoterpene esters, which we have named cuniloside B and froggattiside A, from within the secretory cavities of these species, and shows the presence of these compounds in solvent extracts of the leaves from two other species of Eucalyptus. Both compounds were found in high proportions relative to the essential oils extracted from the leaves. We propose that many other carbohydrate monoterpene esters previously isolated from bulk leaf extracts of various Eucalyptus species may also be localized within the non-volatile fraction of foliar secretory cavities.
We report the widespread occurrence of structurally diverse oleuropeyl glucose esters, including the new diester eucaglobulin B, localized specifically to the essential oil secretory cavities of myrtaceous species. Clear taxonomic patterns in the composition of cavity extracts within the genus Eucalyptus are shown with species from subgenus Symphyomyrtus dominated by oleuropeyl glucose esters and species from subgenus Eucalyptus dominated instead by the flavanone, pinocembrin. We also examined the intra-species occurrence of oleuropeyl glucose esters by quantifying the abundant constituents cuniloside B and froggattiside A in trees from two populations of Eucalyptus polybractea R.T. Baker. All trees contained both compounds, which were positively correlated with total essential oil concentration. This apparent ubiquity of oleuropeyl glucose esters at both intra- and inter-specific levels in Eucalyptus is indicative of important physiological or ecological functions. The significance of their prevalence and the sequestration of these esters and also pinocembrin to the extracellular domain of secretory cavities is discussed in light of their potential biological activities and our findings that they are spatially segregated to the exterior of cavity lumina. The localization of oleuropeyl glucose esters to a specific and isolatable tissue type has the potential to aid in future elucidation of function and biosynthesis.
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