Plants produce a huge number of functionally and chemically different natural products that play an important role in linking the plant with the adjacent environment. Plants can also absorb and transform external organic compounds (xenobiotics). Currently there are only a few studies concerning the effects of xenobiotics and their transformation products on plant metabolites using a mass spectrometric untargeted screening strategy. This study was designed to investigate the changes of the Phragmites australis
metabolome following/after diclofenac or carbamazepine incubation, using a serial coupling of reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) and hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) combined with accurate high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOF-MS). An untargeted screening strategy of metabolic fingerprints was developed to purposefully compare samples from differently treated P. australis
plants, revealing that P. australis
responded to each drug differently. When solvents with significantly different polarities were used, the metabolic profiles of P. australis
were found to change significantly. For instance, the production of polyphenols (such as quercetin) in the plant increased after diclofenac incubation. Moreover, the pathway of unsaturated organic acids became more prominent, eventually as a reaction to protect the cells against reactive oxygen species (ROS). Hence, P. australis
exhibited an adaptive mechanism to cope with each drug. Consequently, the untargeted screening approach is essential for understanding the complex response of plants to xenobiotics.
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