Untargeted metabolomic profiling of Sphagnum fallax reveals novel antimicrobial metabolites

Jane D. Fudyma, Jamee Lyon, Roya AminiTabrizi, Hans Gieschen, Rosalie K. Chu, David W. Hoyt, Jennifer E. Kyle, Jason Toyoda, Nikola Tolic, Heino M. Heyman, Nancy J. Hess, Thomas O. Metz, Malak M. Tfaily

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Sphagnum mosses dominate peatlands by employing harsh ecosystem tactics to prevent vascular plant growth and microbial degradation of these large carbon stores. Knowledge about Sphagnum-produced metabolites, their structure and their function, is important to better understand the mechanisms, underlying this carbon sequestration phenomenon in the face of climate variability. It is currently unclear which compounds are responsible for inhibition of organic matter decomposition and the mechanisms by which this inhibition occurs. Metabolite profiling of Sphagnum fallax was performed using two types of mass spectrometry (MS) systems and 1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H NMR). Lipidome profiling was performed using LC-MS/MS. A total of 655 metabolites, including one hundred fifty-two lipids, were detected by NMR and LC-MS/MS—329 of which were novel metabolites (31 unknown lipids). Sphagum fallax metabolite profile was composed mainly of acid-like and flavonoid glycoside compounds, that could be acting as potent antimicrobial compounds, allowing Sphagnum to control its environment. Sphagnum fallax metabolite composition comparison against previously known antimicrobial plant metabolites confirmed this trend, with seventeen antimicrobial compounds discovered to be present in Sphagnum fallax, the majority of which were acids and glycosides. Biological activity of these compounds needs to be further tested to confirm antimicrobial qualities. Three fungal metabolites were identified providing insights into fungal colonization that may benefit Sphagnum. Characterizing the metabolite profile of Sphagnum fallax provided a baseline to understand the mechanisms in which Sphagnum fallax acts on its environment, its relation to carbon sequestration in peatlands, and provide key biomarkers to predict peatland C store changes (sequestration, emissions) as climate shifts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00179
JournalPlant Direct
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Sphagnum fallax
  • antimicrobial metabolites
  • fungal metabolites
  • lipidomics
  • metabolomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Plant Science


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