Biogeography shaped the metabolome of the genus Espeletia: a phytochemical perspective on an Andean adaptive radiation
OPEN Scientific reports | 20 Aug 2017
GF Padilla-González, M Diazgranados and FB Da Costa
The páramo ecosystem has the highest rate of diversification across plant lineages on earth, of which the genus Espeletia (Asteraceae) is a prime example. The current distribution and molecular phylogeny of Espeletia suggest the influence of Andean geography and past climatic fluctuations on the diversification of this genus. However, molecular markers have failed to reveal subtle biogeographical trends in Espeletia diversification, and metabolomic evidence for allopatric segregation in plants has never been reported. Here, we present for the first time a metabolomics approach based on liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry for revealing subtle biogeographical trends in Espeletia diversification. We demonstrate that Espeletia lineages can be distinguished by means of different metabolic fingerprints correlated to the country of origin on a global scale and to the páramo massif on a regional scale. Distinctive patterns in the accumulation of secondary metabolites according to the main diversification centers of Espeletia are also identified and a comprehensive phytochemical characterization is reported. These findings demonstrate that a variation in the metabolic fingerprints of Espeletia lineages followed the biogeography of this genus, suggesting that our untargeted metabolomics approach can be potentially used as a model to understand the biogeographic history of additional plant groups in the páramo ecosystem.
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