Effects of Soil Fertilization on Terpenoids and Other Carbon-Based Secondary Metabolites in Rosmarinus officinalis Plants: A Comparative Study

Plants (Basel). 2020 Jul 2;9(7):830. doi: 10.3390/plants9070830.


Rosmarinus officinalis is an evergreen aromatic plant with important commercial interest as it contains numerous essential oils (composed of terpenoid compounds) and phenolic constituents (natural antioxidant compounds). This work aims at evaluating the concomitant effects of different inorganic and organic fertilization treatments and the subsequent increases in soil nutrient availability on terpenoids and other carbon-based secondary metabolites, e.g., flavonoids and phenolic compounds, in Rosmarinus officinalis leaves. The results showed that, as expected, the structural carbohydrate content (lignocellulosic compounds) in stems was higher in fertilized plants than in controls. Additionally, positive correlations were observed of the absolute amounts of total terpenoids and some single terpenoid compounds with N or P contents in leaves. On the contrary, the phenolic and flavonoid concentrations in all the rosemary plant parts were lower with the fertilization treatments. Indeed, negative correlations between the phenolic compounds (and flavonoids) and N in rosemary leaves were also found. Overall, the results suggest that the terpenoid production's response to fertilization was due to N, which is essential for protein synthesis and terpene synthase activity, and to P, which is necessary for the synthesis of both terpenoid precursors and ATP and NADPH, also needed for terpenoid synthesis. On the other hand, the basis for the fertilization's effects on the production of phenolic compounds is the direct nitrogen trade-off between growth and the shikimic acid pathway by which phenolics compounds are synthesized.

Keywords: compost; flavonoids; leaf nitrogen; leaf phosphorus; monoterpenes; phenolic compounds; sesquiterpenes; structural carbohydrates.