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Fields & Applications Mass Spectrometry

A Kick From a Rose

Plants are capable of producing a much greater diversity of metabolites than any other biological kingdom – but why is this? Scientists believe evolutionary pressures from herbivorous insects are at the root of this chemical diversity, but there are conflicting theories on how this happens.

There are two main schools of thought: either plants alter their metabolome to produce a more effective and targeted defense against attackers, or the changes in metabolism are random, leaving insects unable to adapt. Until now, testing these contradictory theories has relied on a narrow set of well-defined plant metabolites – or “defense compounds.” But modern MS metabolomics is changing the game.

The caterpillar of a tobacco sponge eats the leaves of the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata. Photo credit: Danny Kessler.

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  1. Dapeng Li et al., Science Advances, 6 (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz0381

About the Author

Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.

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