Narcissus bulbs contain the biologically active alkaloid galanthamine, and Narcissus is being developed as a natural source of the molecule for the pharmaceutical industry. The effect of fertilizer on galanthamine production was investigated in a field study using a 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) metabolite profiling approach. Galanthamine was quantitated and major metabolites in the bulbs were identified. The application of standard fertilization levels of nitrogen and potassium caused a significant increase in galanthamine as compared to a control. Multivariate data analysis of the 1H NMR data revealed that applying double the standard level of nitrogen fertilizer resulted in production of more amino acids and citric acid cycle intermediates, but not more galanthamine. The results indicated that standard levels of fertilizer currently applied in The Netherlands are sufficient for optimal galanthamine accumulation in the bulbs. This study shows how 1H NMR-based metabolic profiling can provide insight into the response of plant metabolism to agricultural practices.
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