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Metabolomics Reveals the Molecular Mechanisms of Copper Induced Cucumber Leaf (Cucumis sativus) Senescence


Excess copper may disturb plant photosynthesis and induce leaf senescence. The underlying toxicity mechanism is not well understood. Here, 3-week-old cucumber plants were foliar exposed to different copper concentrations (10, 100, and 500 mg/L) for a final dose of 0.21, 2.1, and 10 mg/plant, using CuSO4 as the Cu ion source for 7 days, three times per day. Metabolomics quantified 149 primary and 79 secondary metabolites. A number of intermediates of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle were significantly down-regulated 1.4-2.4 fold, indicating a perturbed carbohydrate metabolism. Ascorbate and aldarate metabolism and shikimate-phenylpropanoid biosynthesis (antioxidant and defense related pathways) were perturbed by excess copper. These metabolic responses occur even at the lowest copper dose considered although no phenotype changes were observed at this dose. High copper dose resulted in a 2-fold increase in phytol, a degradation product of chlorophyll. Polyphenol metabolomics revealed that some flavonoids were down-regulated, while the nonflavonoid 4-hydroxycinnamic acid and trans-2-hydroxycinnamic acid were significantly up-regulated 4- and 26-fold compared to the control. This study enhances current understanding of copper toxicity to plants and demonstrates that metabolomics profiling provides a more comprehensive view of plant responses to stressors, which can be applied to other plant species and contaminants.

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