Metabolic profiling of the resurrection plant Haberlea rhodopensis during desiccation and recovery



Desiccation tolerance is among the most important parameters for crop improvement under changing environments. Resurrection plants are useful models for both theoretical and practical studies. We performed metabolite profiling via gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and analyzed the antioxidant capacity of the endemic resurrection plant Haberlea rhodopensis at desiccation and recovery. More than 100 compounds were evaluated. Stress response included changes in both primary and secondary metabolic pathways. The high amounts of the specific glycoside myconoside and some phenolic acids – e.g. syringic and dihydrocaffeic acid under normal conditions tend to show their importance for the priming of H. rhodopensis to withstand severe desiccation and oxidative stress. The accumulation of sucrose (resulting from starch breakdown), total phenols, β-aminoisobutyric acid, β-sitosterol and α-tocopherol increased up to several times at later stages of desiccation. Extracts of H. rhodopensis showed high antioxidant capacity at stress and normal conditions. Myconoside was with the highest antioxidant properties among tested phenolic compounds. Probably, the evolution of resurrection plants under various local environments has resulted in unique desiccation tolerance with specific metabolic background. In our case, it includes the accumulation of a relatively rare compound (myconoside) that contributes alone and together with other common metabolites. Further systems biology studies on the involvement of carbohydrates, phenolic acids and glycosides in the desiccation tolerance and antioxidant capacity of H. rhodopensis will definitely help in achieving the final goal – improving crop drought tolerance.