American Chemical Society
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LC-MS Metabolomics and Chemotaxonomy of Caffeine-Containing Holly (Ilex) Species and Related Taxa in the Aquifoliaceae

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-05-01, 14:43 authored by Adam Negrin, Chunlin Long, Timothy J. Motley, Edward J. Kennelly
Ilex species have been consumed traditionally as medicinal teas worldwide. Though the presence of caffeine has been reported in several species, little is known about secondary-metabolite diversity within and among these taxa. Leaf samples of Ilex guayusa, Ilex paraguariensis, and Ilex vomitoria were analyzed by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry and comparative metabolite profiling with Ilex cassine and other Ilex species to identify chemotaxonomic markers, delimit species, and provide an assessment of chemodiversity. Purine alkaloids were detected and quantified in I. guayusa, I. paraguariensis, and I. vomitoria. Reports of caffeine for I. cassine were not corroborated, suggesting that I. vomitoria was the traditional source of the Native North American tea yaupon. The tetramethyluric acid, theacrine, was detected for the first time in the genus Ilex as a low-level chemotaxonomic marker in I. vomitoria samples. Chemotaxonomy and metabolomics support a close relationship for caffeine-containing Ilex species.