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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

UHPLC-ESI/TOFMS Determination of Salicylate-like Phenolic Gycosides in Populus tremula Leaves

Abreu, Ilka; Moritz, Thomas; Ahnlund, Maria; Albrectsen, Benedicte


Associations of salicylate-like phenolic glycosides (PGs) with biological activity have been reported in Salix and Populus trees, but only for a few compounds, and in relation to a limited number of herbivores. By considering the full diversity of PGs, we may improve our ability to recognize genotypes or chemotype groups and enhance our understanding of their ecological function. Here, we present a fast and efficient general method for salicylate determination in leaves of Eurasian aspen that uses ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization/time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UHPLC-ESI/TOFMS). The time required for the liquid chromatography separations was 13.5 min per sample, compared to around 60 min per sample for most HPLC protocols. In leaf samples from identical P. tremula genotypes with diverse propagation and treatment histories, we identified nine PGs. We found the compound-specific mass chromatograms to be more informative than the UV-visible chromatograms for compound identification and when quantitating samples with large variability in PG content. Signature compounds previously reported for P. tremoloides (tremulacin, tremuloidin, salicin, and salicortin) always were present, and five PGs (2'-O-cinnamoyl-salicortin, 2'-O-acetyl-salicortin, 2'-O-acetyl-salicin, acetyl-tremulacin, and salicyloyl-salicin) were detected for the first time in P. tremula. By using information about the formic acid adduct that appeared for PGs in the LTQ-Orbitrap MS environment, novel compounds like acetyl-tremulacin could be tentatively identified without the use of standards. The novel PGs were consistently either present in genotypes regardless of propagation and damage treatment or were not detectable. In some genotypes, concentrations of 2'-O-acetyl-salicortin and 2'-O-cinnamoyl-salicortin were similar to levels of biologically active PGs in other Salicaceous trees. Our study suggests that we may expect a wide variation in PG content in aspen populations which is of interest both for studies of interactions with herbivores and for mapping population structure.


Eurasian aspen; PG; Salicylates; Salicinoids; Genotype recognition; Chemotyping; Diversity; Natural variation

Published in

Journal of Chemical Ecology
2011, volume: 37, number: 8, pages: 857-870
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Abreu, Ilka
Umeå University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Albrectsen, Benedicte
Umeå University

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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