Metabolite profiling of the carnivorous pitcher plants Darlingtonia and Sarracenia

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Sarraceniaceae is a New World carnivorous plant family comprising three genera: Darlingtonia, Heliamphora, and Sarracenia. The plants occur in nutrient-poor environments and have developed insectivorous capability in order to supplement their nutrient uptake. Sarracenia flava contains the alkaloid coniine, otherwise only found in Conium maculatum, in which its biosynthesis has been studied, and several Aloe species. Its ecological role and biosynthetic origin in S. flava is speculative. The aim of the current research was to investigate the occurrence of coniine in Sarracenia and Darlingtonia and to identify common constituents of both genera, unique compounds for individual variants and floral scent chemicals. In this comprehensive metabolic profiling study, we looked for compound patterns that are associated with the taxonomy of Sarracenia species. In total, 57 different Sarracenia and D. californica accessions were used for metabolite content screening by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The resulting high-dimensional data were studied using a data mining approach. The two genera are characterized by a large number of metabolites and huge chemical diversity between different species. By applying feature selection for clustering and by integrating new biochemical data with existing phylogenetic data, we were able to demonstrate that the chemical composition of the species can be explained by their known classification. Although transcriptome analysis did not reveal a candidate gene for coniine biosynthesis, the use of a sensitive selected ion monitoring method enabled the detection of coniine in eight Sarracenia species, showing that it is more widespread in this genus than previously believed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0171078
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Alkaloids/analysis
  • Data Mining
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Genes, Plant
  • Metabolomics
  • Phylogeny
  • Piperidines/analysis
  • Plant Proteins/genetics
  • Polyketide Synthases/genetics
  • Sarraceniaceae/chemistry
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcriptome

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