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J Chem Ecol. 2015 Feb;41(2):202-11. doi: 10.1007/s10886-015-0552-3. Epub 2015 Feb 5.

Invasive swallow-worts: an allelopathic role for -(-) antofine remains unclear.

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USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit, Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health, Tower Road, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA.


Pale swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum rossicum) and black swallow-wort (V. nigrum) are two invasive plant species in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada that have undergone rapidly expanding ranges over the past 30 years. Both species possess a highly bioactive phytotoxin -(-) antofine in root tissues that causes pronounced inhibition in laboratory bioassays of native plant species co-located in habitats where swallow-wort is found. To further evaluate the allelopathic potential of -(-) antofine, we: determined its concentration in young plant tissues; used in situ approaches to assess antofine stability, potential activity of degradation products, activity in sterile and nonsterile soil; and determined accumulation and concentration in hydroponic cultivation and field collected soil samples. Extracts of seeds and young seedlings were found to have approximately 2-3 times the level of -(-) antofine in comparison to root extracts of adult plants. Breakdown products of antofine accumulated rapidly with exposure to light, but more slowly in the dark, at ambient temperatures, and these products did not retain biological activity. Extraction efficiencies of control soil spiked with -(-) antofine were low but easily detectable by HPLC. Soil samples collected over two growing seasons at four different sites where either pale swallow-wort or black swallow-wort populations are present were negative for the presence of -(-) antofine. Dose response curves using sterile and nonsterile soil spiked with -(-) antofine demonstrated a requirement for at least 20-55 × greater -(-) antofine concentrations in soil to produce similar phytotoxic effects to those previously seen in agar bioassays with lettuce seedlings. Sterile soil had a calculated EC50 of 686 μM (250 μg/g) as compared to nonsterile soil treatments with a calculated EC50 of 1.88 mM (640 μg/g). When pale swallow-wort and black swallow-wort adult plants were grown in hydroponic cultivation, -(-) antofine was found in root exudates and in the growing medium in the nM range. The concentrations in exudate were much lower than that needed for biological activity (μM) although they might be an underestimate of what may accumulate over time in an undisturbed rhizosphere. Based on these various results, it remains uncertain as to whether -(-) antofine could play a significant allelopathic role for invasive swallow-worts.

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