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Early Land Plants

Project Goals:..............Characterizing metabolite profiles of early land plants to study the evolution of chemical diversity in the plant lineage
......................USDA - Hatch Capacity Grant

Executive Summary

The evolution of land plants (Embryophyta) from their unicellular aquatic forerunners was arguably one of the most important developments in biology, since it fundamentally provided the means for both expansion and continued sustenance of earth’s resplendent terrestrial life forms. As plant plants began successful dry land expansion, pathogens, insects and other herbivores also emerged. Due to their sessile lifestyle, however, plants were unable to avoid disease-causing agents and predators. Thus, they evolved mechanical barriers (e.g., cuticles, lignified cell walls, trichomes, and spines/thorns) and protective phytochemicals. These are also called secondary metabolites (as opposed to primary metabolites involved in essential cellular pathways in all organisms) or specialized metabolites (indicating asymmetric distribution across the plant kingdom). Oftentimes, such metabolites are synthesized and accumulated in distinct cell types, tissue or anatomical structures that have often been referred to as “phytochemical factories”. With recent advancements in spatially resolved metabolomic technologies, we are now in the position to shed light onto origins of plant metabolic adaptations at the cellular level. By comparing site-specific metabolomes of various early land plant lineages, we will be able to draw conclusions about how cells producing these compounds evolved in the plant kingdom and how this led to the ecological success today.

Online Databases and Toolkits

Spektraris - Database for HPLC-MS and NMR data acquired with plant extracts and authentic standards of specialized metabolites (> 20,000 records).

Selected Recent Publications

Samec D., Pierz V., Srividya N., Wuest M., Lange B.M. (2019) Assessing chemical diversity in Psilotum nudum (L.) Beauv., a pantropical whisk fern that has lost many of its fern-like characters. Front. Plant Sci. 10, 868

Lange, B.M. (2016) Online resources for gene discovery and biochemical research with aromatic and medicinal plants. Phytochem. Rev. 15, 489-510. Link

Lange B.M. (2015) The evolution of plant secretory structures and emergence of terpenoid chemical diversity. Annu. Rev. Plant Biol. 66, 139-159.

Cuthbertson D.J., Johnson S.R., Piljac-Zegarac J., Kappel J., Schäfer S., Wüst, M., Ketchum R., Croteau R.B., Marques J.V., Davin L.B., Lewis N.G., Rolf M., Kutchan T.M., Seojarto D.D., Lange B.M. (2013) Accurate mass-time tag library for LC/MS-based metabolite profiling of medicinal plants. Phytochemistry 91, 187-197.