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Metabolites. 2018 Dec 14;8(4). pii: E94. doi: 10.3390/metabo8040094.

Characterization of Plant Volatiles Reveals Distinct Metabolic Profiles and Pathways among 12 Brassicaceae Vegetables.

Author information

1
NUS Environment Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore. eriliu@nus.edu.sg.
2
NUS Environment Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore. erizh@nus.edu.sg.
3
NUS Environment Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore. shivshankar.nus@gmail.com.
4
NUS Environment Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore. eriliaxu@nus.edu.sg.
5
NUS Environment Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore. erilhw@nus.edu.sg.
6
NUS Environment Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore. sanjay@nus.edu.sg.
7
NUS Environment Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore. ephocn@nus.edu.sg.
8
Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117549, Singapore. ephocn@nus.edu.sg.

Abstract

Plants emit characteristic organic volatile compounds (VOCs) with diverse biological/ecological functions. However, the links between plant species/varieties and their phytochemical emission profiles remain elusive. Here, we developed a direct headspace solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME) technique and combined with non-targeted gas chromatography‒high-resolution mass spectrometry (GC-HRMS) platform to investigate the VOCs profiles of 12 common Brassicaceae vegetables (watercress, rocket, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kai lan, choy sum, pak choi, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, radish and cherry radish). The direct HS-SPME sampling approach enabled reproducible capture of the rapid-emitting VOCs upon plant tissue disruption. The results revealed extensive variation in VOCs profiles among the 12 Brassicaceae vegetables. Furthermore, principal component analysis (PCA) showed that the VOC profiles could clearly distinguish the 12 Brassicaceae vegetables, and that these profiles well reflected the classical morphological classification. After multivariate statistical analysis, 44 VOCs with significant differences among the Brassicaceae vegetables were identified. Pathway analysis showed that three secondary metabolism pathways, including the fatty acid pathway, methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway and glucosinolate (GLS) pathway, behave distinctively in these vegetables. These three pathways are responsible for the generation and emission of green leaf volatiles (GLVs), terpenes and isothiocyanates (ITCs), respectively. Correlation analysis further showed that volatile metabolites formed via the common pathway had significantly positive correlations, whereas metabolites from different pathways had either non-significant or significantly negative correlations. Genetic influences on these metabolites across various vegetable types were also evaluated. These findings extend our phytochemical knowledge of the 12 edible Brassicaceae vegetables and provide useful information on their secondary metabolism.

KEYWORDS:

GC-HRMS; HS-SPME; VOCs profiling; chemotaxonomy; cruciferous vegetables; metabolic pathway

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