Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and Plant Chemical Defence: Effects of Colonisation on Aboveground and Belowground Metabolomes

Elizabeth M Hill, Lynne A. Robinson, Ali Abdul-Sada, Adam J. Vanbergen, Angela Hodge, Susan E Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) colonisation of plant roots is one of the most ancient and widespread interactions in ecology, yet the systemic consequences for plant secondary chemistry remain unclear. We performed the first metabolomic investigation into the impact of AMF colonisation by Rhizophagus irregularis on the chemical defences, spanning above- and below-ground tissues, in its host-plant ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). We used a non-targeted metabolomics approach to profile, and where possible identify, compounds induced by AMF colonisation in both roots and shoots. Metabolomics analyses revealed that 33 compounds were significantly increased in the root tissue of AMF colonised plants, including seven blumenols, plant-derived compounds known to be associated with AMF colonisation. One of these was a novel structure conjugated with a malonyl-sugar and uronic acid moiety, hitherto an unreported combination. Such structural modifications of blumenols could be significant for their previously reported functional roles associated with the establishment and maintenance of AM colonisation. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), key anti-herbivore defence compounds in ragwort, dominated the metabolomic profiles of root and shoot extracts. Analyses of the metabolomic profiles revealed an increase in four PAs in roots (but not shoots) of AMF colonised plants, with the potential to protect colonised plants from below-ground organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-208
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of chemical ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2018


  • Above-belowground interactions
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis
  • Blumenols
  • Metabolomics
  • Microbiome
  • Phytobiome
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • Rhizophagus irregularis
  • Senecio jacobaea
  • Symbiosis
  • Plant Roots/physiology
  • Senecio/physiology
  • Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids/metabolism
  • Metabolome
  • Biomass
  • Mycorrhizae/physiology
  • Glomeromycota/physiology
  • Plant Shoots/physiology

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