Comparative metabolomic analysis reveals the variations in taxoids and flavonoids among three Taxus species

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Background: Trees of the genus Taxus are highly valuable medicinal plants with multiple pharmacological effects on various cancer treatments. Paclitaxel from Taxus trees is an efficient and widely used anticancer drug, however, the accumulation of taxoids and other active ingredients can vary greatly among Taxus species. In our study, the metabolomes of three Taxus species have been investigated. Results: A total of 2246 metabolites assigned to various primary and secondary metabolic pathways were identified using an untargeted approach. Analysis of differentially accumulated metabolites identified 358 T. media-, 220 T. cuspidata-, and 169 T. mairei-specific accumulated metabolites, respectively. By searching the metabolite pool, 7 MEP pathway precursors, 11 intermediates, side chain products and derivatives of paclitaxel, and paclitaxel itself were detected. Most precursors, initiated intermediates were highly accumulated in T. mairei, and most intermediate products approaching the end point of taxol biosynthesis pathway were primarily accumulated in T. cuspidata and T. media. Our data suggested that there were higher-efficiency pathways to paclitaxel in T. cuspidata and T. media compared with in T. mairei. As an important class of active ingredients in Taxus trees, a majority of flavonoids were predominantly accumulated in T. mairei rather than T. media and T. cuspidata. The variations in several selected taxoids and flavonoids were confirmed using a targeted approach. Conclusions: Systematic correlativity analysis identifies a number of metabolites associated with paclitaxel biosynthesis, suggesting a potential negative correlation between flavonoid metabolism and taxoid accumulation. Investigation of the variations in taxoids and other active ingredients will provide us with a deeper understanding of the interspecific differential accumulation of taxoids and an opportunity to accelerate the highest-yielding species breeding and resource utilization.




Zhou, T., Luo, X., Zhang, C., Xu, X., Yu, C., Jiang, Z., … Shen, C. (2019). Comparative metabolomic analysis reveals the variations in taxoids and flavonoids among three Taxus species. BMC Plant Biology, 19(1).

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