Alkaloid diversity in the leaves of Australian Flindersia (Rutaceae) species driven by adaptation to aridity
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The genus Flindersia (Rutaceae) comprises 17 species of mostly Australian endemic trees. Although most species are restricted to rainforests, four have evolved to grow in semi-arid and arid environments. In this study, the leaf alkaloid diversity of rainforest and semi-arid/arid zone adapted Australian Flindersia were compared by LC/MS-MS and NMR spectroscopy. Contrary to expectations, Flindersia alkaloid diversity was strongly correlated with environmental aridity, where species predominating in drier regions produced more alkaloids than their wet rainforest congenerics. Rainforest species were also more chemically similar to each other than were the four semi-arid/arid zone species. There was a significant relationship between the presence of alkaloid structural classes and phylogenetic distance, suggesting that alkaloid profiles are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. The results suggest that the radiation of Flindersia species out of the rainforest and into drier environments has promoted the evolution of unique alkaloid diversity. Plants growing in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia may represent an untapped source of undescribed specialised metabolites.
Natural Products Chemistry