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Probing the response of the amphibious plant Butomus umbellatus to nutrient enrichment and shading by integrating eco-physiological with metabolomic analyses

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  • Paraskevi Manolaki
  • ,
  • Georgia Tooulakou, Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas, Greece
  • Caroline Urup Byberg, Denmark
  • Franziska Eller
  • Brian Keith Sorrell
  • Maria I. Klapa, Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas, Greece
  • Tenna Riis

Amphibious plants, living in land-water ecotones, have to cope with challenging and continuously changing growth conditions in their habitats with respect to nutrient and light availability. They have thus evolved a variety of mechanisms to tolerate and adapt to these changes. Therefore, the study of these plants is a major area of ecophysiology and environmental ecological research. However, our understanding of their capacity for physiological adaptation and tolerance remains limited and requires systemic approaches for comprehensive analyses. To this end, in this study, we have conducted a mesocosm experiment to analyze the response of Butomus umbellatus, a common amphibious species in Denmark, to nutrient enrichment and shading. Our study follows a systematic integration of morphological (including plant height, leaf number, and biomass accumulation), ecophysiological (photosynthesis-irradiance responses, leaf pigment content, and C and N content in plant organs), and leaf metabolomic measurements using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (39 mainly primary metabolites), based on bioinformatic methods. No studies of this type have been previously reported for this plant species. We observed that B. umbellatus responds to nutrient enrichment and light reduction through different mechanisms and were able to identify its nutrient enrichment acclimation threshold within the applied nutrient gradient. Up to that threshold, the morpho-physiological response to nutrient enrichment was profound, indicating fast-growing trends (higher growth rates and biomass accumulation), but only few parameters changed significantly from light to shade [specific leaf area (SLA); quantum yield (φ)]. Metabolomic analysis supported the morpho-physiological results regarding nutrient overloading, indicating also subtle changes due to shading not directly apparent in the other measurements. The combined profile analysis revealed leaf metabolite and morpho-physiological parameter associations. In this context, leaf lactate, currently of uncertain role in higher plants, emerged as a shading acclimation biomarker, along with SLA and φ. The study enhances both the ecophysiology methodological toolbox and our knowledge of the adaptive capacity of amphibious species. It demonstrates that the educated combination of physiological with metabolomic measurements using bioinformatic approaches is a promising approach for ecophysiology research, enabling the elucidation of discriminatory metabolic shifts to be used for early diagnosis and even prognosis of natural ecosystem responses to climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number581787
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

    Research areas

  • Butomus umbellatus, abiotic plant stresses, amphibious plants, eco-metabolomics, ecophysiology, nutrient enrichment, shading effect, systems biology

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