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Chemometric analysis reveals links in the formation of fragrant bio-molecules during agarwood (Aquilaria malaccensis) and fungal interactions.


Fragrant agarwood, arguably the costliest wood in the world, is formed by plant-fungal interactions in Aquilaria spp. However, very little is known about this fragrant outcome of interaction. Therefore, mimicking the ancient traditions of agarwood production in Assam (Northeast India), a chemometric assessment of the agarwood-fungus interaction was made by chemical profiling (GC-MS) coupled with statistical analysis (principal component, correlation network analysis) across three platforms, viz. callus, juvenile plants and resinous wood-chips with an associated Fusarium. In the study of callus-fungus interaction, increased accumulation of key aroma compounds such as pentatriacontane {fold change (log2FC) = 3.47)}, 17-pentatriacontene (log2FC = 2.95), tetradecane, 2-methyl- (log2FC = 1.10) over callus and activation of pathways related to defense and secondary metabolism indicated links to aroma production. Study on fungal interactions in juvenile plants and resinous wood-chips indicated formation of terpenoid precursors (e.g. farnesol, geranylgeraniol acetate) and agarwood sesquiterpenes (e.g. agarospirol, γ-eudesmol). Correlation network analysis revealed the possible regulation of sesquiterpene biosynthesis involving squalene. Also a direct role of fungus in aroma (e.g. dodecane, 4-methyl-, tetracosane) was highlighted. Appearance of fragrant molecules unknown to agarwood during interaction featured as a new possibility for future research.