Universiteit Leiden

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Dissertation

The evolution of chemical diversity in plants : pyrrolizidine alkaloids and cytochrome P450s in Jacobaea

Plants produce an astonishing variety of secondary metabolites (SMs) which are thought to play vital roles in the fitness of plants through ecological interactions.

Author
Chen, Y.
Date
29 January 2020
Links
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Plants produce an astonishing variety of secondary metabolites (SMs) which are thought to play vital roles in the fitness of plants through ecological interactions. The most characteristic features of SMs are their striking chemical diversity and inter- or intraspecific variation. Due to the large number, high structural diversity and multifunctionality of SMs, it is still an ongoing challenge to understand how this SM diversity comes about, and why such a large diversity is maintained in nature. In this thesis this question was studied using the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) of Jacobaea species as the study system from an evolutionary and biosynthetic perspective. PA variations were studied among and within Jacobaea species, and species-specific PA profiles were observed. In order to understand how PA diversity is related to species phylogeny, the evolutionary histories and phylogenetic signals of individual PAs were investigated under the phylogenetic context of Jacobaea species and no strong phylogenetic signals were found. To shed light on the mechanisms underlying PA diversity, a gene-to-metabolite approach targeting cytochrome P450 monooxygenases which play an important role in the evolution of chemical diversity was applied to study their involvement in PA biosynthesis and PA diversity.

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