Introduction: Most secondary metabolites from plants have a prominent defensive role and repellency against predators and microbial pathogens. These properties largely vary among plant species and offer potential applications as biologically active compounds in medicine as well in agriculture.
Objectives: We propose a new procedure that combine different spectroscopic techniques and multivariate data analysis to determine the chemical composition and the relative amounts of each metabolites and/or each class of organic compounds. The approach was used for a rapid identification of secondary metabolites from leaf and root of eight Mediterranean plants species.
Methodology: The polar and the apolar extracts of two leaves and roots of each plant were analysed by proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR) and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC–MS), respectively. Multivariate data analysis was used for a faster interpretation of data.
Results: The metabolic fingerprint of the Mediterranean plants, Acanthus mollis, Dittrichia viscosa, Festuca drymeja, Fraxinus ornus, Fagus sylvatica, Hedera helix, Quercus ilex, and Typha latifolia, showed a complex chemical composition, being specific for each species and plant tissue. Two alditols, mannitol and quercitol, were found in manna ash (Fraxinus ornus) and holm oak (Q. ilex) polar leaf extracts, respectively. The highest levels of aromatic compounds were found in D. viscosa and T. latifolia. Fatty acids were the predominant class of compounds in all apolar extracts under investigation. Triterpene were almost exclusively found in roots, except for holm oak, where they constitute 58% of total extract. Steroids were widespread in leaf extracts.
Conclusion: The major advantages of the proposed approach are versatility and rapidity, thus making it suitable for a fast comparison among species and plant tissue types.