, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 11–24 | Cite as

Mistletoe effects on the host tree Tapirira guianensis: insights from primary and secondary metabolites

  • Fernanda Anselmo-MoreiraEmail author
  • Luíza Teixeira-Costa
  • Gregório Ceccantini
  • Cláudia Maria Furlan
Original Article


Mistletoes are parasitic plants that are capable of penetrating the living tissue of another plant’s stems and branches and extracting the necessary resources for their survival. This study aimed to compare the leaves and branches of parasitized and non-parasitized Tapirira guianensis host trees to gain insights of reciprocal effects of Phoradendron perrottetii (mistletoe) infection and profiles of primary metabolites and phenolic compounds of T. guianensis. Our hypothesis was that either the host’s chemical profile determines mistletoe infestation, or that the mistletoe infestation leads to fundamental changes in the metabolite profile of the host. Plant material was collected from T. guianensis parasitized by P. perrottetii, yielding samples from infested and non-infested host branches and their respective leaves. Infested branches were divided into two regions, the proximal region and the host-parasite interface (gall) region. Leaves and branches of non-parasitized plants were also collected. Statistical analyses revealed negative effects of the parasite on infested branches regarding most of the analyzed primary metabolites, especially soluble carbohydrates. This suggests a flow of carbohydrates towards the mistletoe, indicating a partially heterotrophic nutrition. Additionally, we observed a positive effect on the tannin contents of non-infested host branches caused by the mistletoe, which might suggest that this parasitic relationship induces a systemic response in T. guianensis. Finally, high contents of flavonoids at the gall region could indicate a mechanism of ROS quenching.


Parasitic plant Host-parasite interface Tannins Carbohydrates Santalaceae Santalales. 



Authors would thank Mourisa Ferreira and Aline Bertinatto Cruz for their technical assistance during analysis; Jessica Gersony for improvements on the first version of the manuscript. GC and CMF were fellow researchers of the Brazilian Council for Superior Education (CNPq).


Authors would thank the São Paulo Research Foundation for funding this research (FAPESP—process number 2013/23322-3) and CAPES (Finance Code 001, Brazil).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

49_2018_272_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (485 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 485 KB)
49_2018_272_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (90 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 89 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany, Institute of BiosciencesUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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