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Metabolomics demonstrates divergent responses of two Eucalyptus species to water stress


Past studies of water stress in Eucalyptus spp. generally highlighted the role of fewer than five “important” metabolites, whereas recent metabolomic studies on other genera have shown tens of compounds are affected. There are currently no metabolite profiling data for responses of stress-tolerant species to water stress. We used GC–MS metabolite profiling to examine the response of leaf metabolites to a long (2 month) and severe (Ψpredawn < −2 MPa) water stress in two species of the perennial tree genus Eucalyptus (the mesic Eucalyptus pauciflora and the semi-arid Eucalyptus dumosa). Polar metabolites in leaves were analysed by GC–MS and inorganic ions by capillary electrophoresis. Pressure–volume curves and metabolite measurements showed that water stress led to more negative osmotic potential and increased total osmotically active solutes in leaves of both species. Water stress affected around 30–40% of measured metabolites in E. dumosa and 10–15% in E. pauciflora. There were many metabolites that were affected in E. dumosa but not E. pauciflora, and some that had opposite responses in the two species. For example, in E. dumosa there were increases in five acyclic sugar alcohols and four low-abundance carbohydrates that were unaffected by water stress in E. pauciflora. Re-watering increased osmotic potential and decreased total osmotically active solutes in E. pauciflora, whereas in E. dumosa re-watering led to further decreases in osmotic potential and increases in total osmotically active solutes. This experiment has added several extra dimensions to previous targeted analyses of water stress responses in Eucalyptus, and highlights that even species that are closely related (e.g. congeners) may respond differently to water stress and re-watering.

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This work was supported by a Discovery Grant and QEII Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (CR Warren), and a major equipment grant from The University of Sydney. PhD fellowship from Regional Government of Madrid (FJ Cano) and in the frame of the project “SUM2008-00004-C03-01”, funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation of Spain. Dr Maria Taranto is warmly thanked for assisting with preparation of samples.

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Correspondence to Charles R. Warren.

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Warren, C.R., Aranda, I. & Cano, F.J. Metabolomics demonstrates divergent responses of two Eucalyptus species to water stress. Metabolomics 8, 186–200 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11306-011-0299-y

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  • Drought
  • Metabolome
  • Osmotic adjustment
  • Water relations
  • GC–MS
  • Plant
  • Water stress