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Resistance associated metabolite profiling of Aspergillus leaf spot in cotton through non-targeted metabolomics

by Maria Khizar, Jianxin Shi, Sadia Saleem, Fiza Liaquat, Muhammad Ashraf, Sadia Latif, Urooj Haroon, Syed Waqas Hassan, Shafiq ur Rehman, Hassan Javed Chaudhary, Umar Masood Quraishi, Muhammad Farooq Hussain Munis

Aspergillus tubingensis is an important pathogen of economically important crops. Different biotic stresses strongly influence the balance of metabolites in plants. The aim of this study was to understand the function and response of resistance associated metabolites which, in turn are involved in many secondary metabolomics pathways to influence defense mechanism of cotton plant. Analysis of non-targeted metabolomics using ultra high performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS) revealed abundant accumulation of key metabolites including flavonoids, phenylpropanoids, terpenoids, fatty acids and carbohydrates, in response to leaf spot of cotton. The principal component analysis (PCA), orthogonal partial least squares discriminant analysis (OPLS-DA) and partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) score plots illustrated the evidences of variation between two varieties of cotton under mock and pathogen inoculated treatments. Primary metabolism was affected by the up regulation of pyruvate and malate and by the accumulation of carbohydrates like cellobiose and inulobiose. Among 241 resistance related (RR) metabolites, 18 were identified as resistance related constitutive (RRC) and 223 as resistance related induced (RRI) metabolites. Several RRI metabolites, identified in the present study were the precursors for many secondary metabolic pathways. These included phenylpropanoids (stilbenes and furanocoumarin), flavonoids (phlorizin and kaempferol), alkaloids (indolizine and acetylcorynoline) and terpenoids (azelaic acid and oleanolic acid). Our results demonstrated that secondary metabolism, primary metabolism and energy metabolism were more active in resistant cultivar, as compared to sensitive cultivar. Differential protein and fatty acid metabolism was also depicted in both cultivars. Accumulation of these defense related metabolites in resistant cotton cultivar and their suppression in susceptible cotton cultivar revealed the reason of their respective tolerance and susceptibility against A. tubingensis.

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