Metabolic profiling of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in foliage of two echium spp. Invaders in Australia— A case of novel weapons?

Dominik Skoneczny, Paul A. Weston, Xiaocheng Zhu, Geoff M. Gurr, Ragan M. Callaway, Leslie A. Weston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Metabolic profiling allows for simultaneous and rapid annotation of biochemically similar organismal metabolites. An effective platform for profiling of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) and their N-oxides (PANOs) was developed using ultra high pressure liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight (UHPLC-QTOF) mass spectrometry. Field-collected populations of invasive Australian weeds, Echium plantagineum and E. vulgare were raised under controlled glasshouse conditions and surveyed for the presence of related PAs and PANOs in leaf tissues at various growth stages. Echium plantagineum possessed numerous related and abundant PANOs (>17) by seven days following seed germination, and these were also observed in rosette and flowering growth stages. In contrast, the less invasive E. vulgare accumulated significantly lower levels of most PANOs under identical glasshouse conditions. Several previously unreported PAs were also found at trace levels. Field-grown populations of both species were also evaluated for PA production and highly toxic echimidine N-oxide was amongst the most abundant PANOs in foliage of both species. PAs in field and glasshouse plants were more abundant in the more widely invasive species, E. plantagineum, and may provide competitive advantage by increasing the plant’s capacity to deter natural enemies in its invaded range through production of novel weapons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26721-26737
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 6 2015


  • E. plantagineum
  • E. vulgare
  • Metabolomics
  • Paterson’s curse
  • Plant defense


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