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Comprehensive mass spectrometry-guided plant specialized metabolite phenotyping reveals metabolic diversity in the cosmopolitan plant family Rhamnaceae

By Kyo Bin Kang, Madeleine Ernst, Justin J.J. van der Hooft, Ricardo R. da Silva, Junha Park, Marnix H Medema, Sang Hyun Sung, Pieter Dorrestein

Posted 07 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/463620 (published DOI: 10.1111/tpj.14292)

Plants produce a myriad of specialized metabolites to overcome their sessile habit and combat biotic as well as abiotic stresses. Evolution has shaped specialized metabolite diversity, which drives many other aspects of plant biodiversity. However, until recently, large-scale studies investigating specialized metabolite diversity in an evolutionary context have been limited by the impossibility to identify chemical structures of hundreds to thousands of compounds in a time-feasible manner. Here, we introduce a workflow for large-scale, semi-automated annotation of specialized metabolites, and apply it for over 1000 metabolites of the cosmopolitan plant family Rhamnaceae. We enhance the putative annotation coverage dramatically, from 2.5 % based on spectral library matches alone to 42.6 % of total MS/MS molecular features extending annotations from well-known plant compound classes into the dark plant metabolomics matter. To gain insights in substructural diversity within the plant family, we also extract patterns of co-occurring fragments and neutral losses, so-called Mass2Motifs, from the dataset; for example, only the Ziziphoid clade developed the triterpenoid biosynthetic pathway, whereas the Rhamnoid clade predominantly developed diversity in flavonoid glycosides, including 7-O-methyltransferase activity. Our workflow provides the foundations towards the automated, high-throughput chemical identification of massive metabolite spaces, and we expect it to revolutionize our understanding of plant chemoevolutionary mechanisms.

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