Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Miami, Florida » Subtropical Horticulture Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #283262


Location: Subtropical Horticulture Research

Title: Can phylogeny predict chemical diversity and potential medicinal activity of plants? A case study of Amaryllidaceae

item Ronsted, Nina
item Symonds, Matthew
item Birkholm, Trine
item Christensen, Soren Brogger
item Meerow, Alan
item Molander, Marianne
item Molgaard, Per
item Petersen, Gitte
item Rasmussen, Nina
item Van Staden, Johannes
item Stafford, Gary
item Jager, Ann

Submitted to: BMC Evolutionary Biology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/7/2012
Publication Date: 9/14/2012
Citation: Ronsted, N., Symonds, M.R., Birkholm, T., Christensen, S., Meerow, A.W., Molander, M., Molgaard, P., Petersen, G., Rasmussen, N., Van Staden, J., Stafford, G.I., Jager, A.K. 2012. Can phylogeny predict chemical diversity and potential medicinal activity of plants? A case study of Amaryllidaceae. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 1471-2148/12/182.

Interpretive Summary: In this paper, we test the correlation of relationships among genera of the ornamental plant family Amaryllidaceae and biologically active secondary compounds as evidence of a predictive approach for selection of plants for medical discovery. Good correlation was found for alkaloid content and diversity and activity involving the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE).

Technical Abstract: During evolution, plants and other organisms have developed a diversity of chemical defences, leading to the evolution of various groups of specialized metabolites selected for their endogenous biological function. A correlation between phylogeny and biosynthetic pathways could offer a predictive approach enabling more efficient selection of plants for traditional medicine and lead discovery. However, this relationship has rarely been rigorously tested and the potential predictive power is consequently unknown. We produced a phylogenetic hypothesis for the medicinally important plant subfamily Amaryllidoideae (Amaryllidaceae) based on parsimony and Bayesian analysis of nuclear, plastid, and mitochondrial DNA sequences of over 100 species. We tested if alkaloid diversity and central nervous system related activities are significantly correlated with phylogeny. Several genera are non-monophyletic emphasizing the importance of using phylogeny for interpretation of character distribution. Alkaloid diversity and in vitro inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and binding to the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT) are significantly correlated with phylogeny. This has implications for the use of phylogenies to interpret chemical evolution and biosynthetic pathways, to select candidate taxa for lead discovery, and to make recommendations for traditional use and conservation priorities.