Frontiers in plant science

Metabolic Investigation of Phelipanche aegyptiaca Reveals Significant Changes during Developmental Stages and in Its Different Organs.

PMID 28439279


Phelipanche aegyptiaca Pers. is a root holoparasitic plant considered to be among the most destructive agricultural weeds worldwide. In order to gain more knowledge about the metabolic profile of the parasite during its developmental stages, we carried out primary metabolic and lipid profiling using GC-MS analysis. In addition, the levels of amino acids that incorporate into proteins, total protein in the albumin fraction, nitrogen, reduced sugars, and phenols were determined. For the assays, the whole plants from the four developmental stages-tubercle, pre-emergent shoot, post-emergent shoot, and mature flowering plants-were taken. Thirty-five metabolites out of 66 differed significantly between the various developmental stages. The results have shown that the first three developmental stages were distinguished in their profiles, but the latter two did not differ from the mature stage. Yet, 46% of the metabolites detected did not change significantly during the developmental stages. This is unlike other studies of non-parasitic plants showing that their metabolic levels tend to alter significantly during development. This implies that the parasite can control the levels of these metabolites. We further studied the metabolic nature of five organs (adventitious roots, lower and upper shoot, floral buds, and flowers) in mature plants. Similar to non-parasitic plants, the parasite exhibited significant differences between the vegetative and reproductive organs. Compared to other organs, floral buds had higher levels of free amino acids and total nitrogen, whereas flowers accumulated higher levels of simple sugars such as sucrose, and the putative precursors for nectar synthesis, color, and volatiles. This suggests that the reproductive organs have the ability to accumulate metabolites that are required for the production of seeds and as a source of energy for the reproductive processes. The data contribute to our knowledge about the metabolic behavior of parasites that rely on their host for its basic nutrients.