Direct surface analysis coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry reveals heterogeneous composition of the cuticle of Hibiscus trionum petals.
Plant cuticle, which is the outermost layer covering the aerial parts of all plants including petals and leaves, can present a wide range of patterns that, combined with cell shape, can generate unique physical, mechanical, or optical properties. For example, arrays of regularly spaced nanoridges have been found on the dark (anthocyanin-rich) portion at the base of the petals of Hibiscus trionum. Those ridges act as a diffraction grating, producing an iridescent effect. Because the surface of the distal white region of the petals is smooth and noniridescent, a selective chemical characterization of the surface of the petals on different portions (i.e., ridged vs smooth) is needed to understand whether distinct cuticular patterns correlate with distinct chemical compositions of the cuticle. In the present study, a rapid screening method has been developed for the direct surface analysis of Hibiscus trionum petals using liquid extraction surface analysis (LESA) coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry. The optimized method was used to characterize a wide range of plant metabolites and cuticle monomers on the upper (adaxial) surface of the petals on both the white/smooth and anthocyanic/ridged regions, and on the lower (abaxial) surface, which is entirely smooth. The main components detected on the surface of the petals are low-molecular-weight organic acids, sugars, and flavonoids. The ridged portion on the upper surface of the petal is enriched in long-chain fatty acids, which are constituents of the wax fraction of the cuticle. These compounds were not detected on the white/smooth region of the upper petal surface or on the smooth lower surface.