, Volume 237, Issue 4, pp 955–966 | Cite as

Artemisinin production and precursor ratio in full grown Artemisia annua L. plants subjected to external stress

  • Anders Kjær
  • Francel Verstappen
  • Harro Bouwmeester
  • Elise Ivarsen
  • Xavier Fretté
  • Lars P. Christensen
  • Kai Grevsen
  • Martin Jensen
Original Article


The concentration of the lifesaving antimalarial compound artemisinin (AN) in cultivated Artemisia annua (A. annua) plants is relatively low, and thus research in improving the content is important. In the present study, external stress was applied to adult plants of A. annua and the effect was examined on the concentrations of AN and its immediate precursors in leaves, and these concentrations were related to densities and sizes of the glandular trichomes (GT). Plants were stress treated weekly five times by sandblasting or spraying with salicylic acid, chitosan oligosaccharide, H2O2, and NaCl solutions. Contents of AN-related compounds (AN-c) were analysed in leaf samples from an upper and a lower position of the plants, and GT were quantified and measured. In lower leaves, several stress treatments had significant negative effects on concentrations of AN-c, whereas the ratios between compounds showed an increased conversion to AN. In the upper leaves, no changes were observed compared to controls. Linear relations were found between the concentrations of metabolites and the density of GT in both upper and lower leaves, and size of GT in lower leaves. Results suggested that older and younger leaves may respond differently to applied stress. A part of the plants were infected by powdery mildew, and this caused significantly different compositions of the AN-c, compared to uninfected plants. In conclusion, changes in concentrations of AN-c seemed largely to be related to changes in GT densities and sizes.


Artemisinin Artemisia annua Leaf age Stress Trichome area Trichome density 





Dihydroartemisinic acid


Artemisinic acid


Dihydroartemisinic aldehyde


Artemisinic aldehyde


Dihydroartemisinic alcohol


Artemisinic alcohol


Artemisinin-related compounds, including AN


Glandular trichomes

A. annua

Artemisia annua


Salicylic acid


Chitosan oligosaccharide




Secondary metabolites



The authors wish to thank field technicians Astrid Bergman, Birthe Flyger and Jens Barfod for assisting in maintaining and sampling the experimental plants. We also acknowledge the valuable input to the microscopy techniques by laboratory technician Annette S. Brandsholm. Dr. Willemien Lommen, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and the members of the Artemisia Project Group, Denmark have been highly valued sparing partners. This work was supported by The Strategic Research Council, Denmark [FI. 2101-08-0048].


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Kjær
    • 1
  • Francel Verstappen
    • 2
  • Harro Bouwmeester
    • 2
  • Elise Ivarsen
    • 3
  • Xavier Fretté
    • 3
  • Lars P. Christensen
    • 3
  • Kai Grevsen
    • 1
  • Martin Jensen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Food ScienceAarhus UniversityÅrslevDenmark
  2. 2.Laboratory of Plant PhysiologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology, and Environmental TechnologyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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