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Testing the boundaries of closely related daisy taxa using etabolomic profiling

journal contribution
posted on 10.02.2021, 23:20 by Andre Messina, DL Callahan, NG Walsh, Susan Hoebee, Peter Green
Advances in high-throughput, comprehensive small molecule analytical techniques have seen the development of the field of metabolomics. The coupling of mass spectrometry with high-resolution chromatography provides extensive chemical profiles from complex biological extracts. These profiles include thousands of compounds linked to gene expression, and can be used as taxonomic characters. Studies have shown metabolite profiles to be taxon specific in a range of organisms, but few have investigated taxonomically problematic plant taxa. This study used a phenetic analysis of metabolite profiles to test taxonomic boundaries in the Olearia phlogopappa (Asteraceae) complex as delimited by morphological data. Metabolite profiles were generated from both field- and shade house-grown material, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Aligned profiles of 51 samples from 12 taxa gave a final dataset of over 10,000 features. Multivariate analyses of field and shade house material gave congruent results, both confirming the distinctiveness of the morphologically defined species and subspecies in this complex. Metabolomics has great potential in alpha taxonomy, especially for testing the boundaries of closely related taxa where DNA sequence data has been uninformative. © International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT) 2014.


We are thankful to M. Bartley for maintenance of the living plant collection at La Trobe University, and S. Verdon for assistance in the field. Funding was provided by the Australian Government Bush Blitz Capacity-Building Grant, and the Australian Systematic Botany Hansjorg Eichler Scientific Research Fund.


Publication Date









(p. 367-376)





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