Mining for treatment-specific and general changes in target compounds and metabolic fingerprints in response to herbivory and phytohormones in Plantago lanceolata


Author for correspondence:
Caroline Müller
Tel: +49 5211065524


  • Induction studies focusing on target metabolites may not reveal metabolic changes occurring in plants after various challenges. By contrast, metabolic fingerprinting can be a powerful tool to find patterns that are either treatment-specific or general and was therefore used to depict plant responses after various challenges.
  • Plants of Plantago lanceolata were challenged by mechanical damage, specialist herbivores (aphids or sawfly larvae), generalist herbivores (Lepidopteran caterpillars) or phytohormones (jasmonic or salicylic acid). After 3 d of treatment, local and systemic leaves were analyzed for characteristic target metabolites (iridoid glucosides and verbascoside) by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and for metabolic fingerprints by liquid chromatography coupled with time of flight mass spectrometry (LC-TOF-MS).
  • Whereas only marginal changes in target metabolite concentrations were found, metabolic fingerprints were substantially affected especially by generalist and phytohormone treatments. By contrast, mechanical damage and specialist herbivory caused fewer changes. Responses to generalists partly overlapped with the changes caused by jasmonic acid, but many additional peaks were up-regulated. Furthermore, many peaks were co-induced by jasmonic and salicylic acid.
  • The surprisingly high co-induction of peaks by both phytohormones suggests that the signaling pathways regulate a set of common targets. Furthermore, only metabolic fingerprinting could reveal that herbivores induce additional species-specific pathways beyond these phytohormone responses.