Metabotype variation in a field population of tansy plants influences aphid host selection

Mary V. Clancy, Sharon E. Zytynska, Franco Moritz, Michael Witting, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Jörg Peter Schnitzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


It is well known that plant volatiles influence herbivores in their selection of a host plant; however, less is known about how the nonvolatile metabolome affects herbivore host selection. Metabolic diversity between intraspecific plants can be characterized using non-targeted mass spectrometry that gives us a snapshot overview of all metabolic processes occurring within a plant at a particular time. Here, we show that non-targeted metabolomics can be used to reveal links between intraspecific chemical diversity and ecological processes in tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). First, we show that tansy plants can be categorized into five subgroups based up on their metabolic profiles, and that these “metabotypes” influenced natural aphid colonization in the field. Second, this grouping was not due to induced metabolomic changes within the plant due to aphid feeding but rather resulted from constitutive differences in chemical diversity between plants. These findings highlight the importance of intraspecific chemical diversity within one plant population and provide the first report of a non-targeted metabolomic field study in chemical ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2791-2805
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Cell and Environment
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Tanacetum vulgare
  • aphids
  • chemical ecology
  • metabolomics
  • secondary metabolism


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