Premise of the study: While plants show lineage-specific differences in metabolite composition, plant metabolites are also known to vary in response to the environment. The extent to which these different determinants of metabolite composition are mutually independent and recognizable is unknown. Moreover, the extent to which the metabolome can reconcile evolutionary constraint with the needs of the plant for rapid environmental response is unknown. We investigated these questions in plant species representing different phylogenetic lineages and growing in different subantarctic island environments. We studied their amines—metabolites involved in plant response to environmental conditions. • Methods: Nine species were sampled under high salinity, water saturation, and altitude on the Kerguelen Islands. Their profiles of free aromatic, aliphatic, and acetyl-conjugated amines were determined by HPLC. We related amine composition to species and environment using generalized discriminant analyses. • Key results: Amine composition differed significantly between species within the same environment, and the differences reflected phylogenetic positions. Moreover, across all species, amine metabolism differed between environments, and different lineages occupied different absolute positions in amine/environment space. Interestingly, all species had the same relative shifts in amine composition between environments. • Conclusion: Our results indicate a similar response of amine composition to abiotic environments in distantly related angiosperms, suggesting environmental flexibility of species is maintained despite major differences in amine composition among lineages. These results aid understanding of how in nature the plant metabolome integrates ecology and evolution, thus providing primordial information on adaptive mechanisms of plant metabolism to climate change.
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