Plant Cell Reports (2018) 37:393–410
Metabolic dynamics and physiological adaptation of Panax ginseng
· Sung Chul Joo
· Jianxin Shi
· Chaoyang Hu
· Sheng Quan
· Jianping Hu
· Johan Sukweenadhi
· Deok‑Chun Yang
· Dabing Zhang
Received: 26 August 2017 / Accepted: 9 November 2017 / Published online: 17 November 2017
© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017
Key message The dynamics of metabolites from leaves to roots of Panax ginseng during development has revealed
the tissue-speciﬁc and year-speciﬁc metabolic networks.
Abstract Being an essential Oriental medicinal plant, ginseng (Panax ginseng Meyer) is a slow-growing perennial herb-
accumulating pharmaceutically active metabolites such as ginsenosides in roots during growth. However, little is known
about how ginseng plants survive in the harsh environments such as winter cold and summer heat for a longer period and
accumulates those active metabolites as the plant grows. To understand the metabolic kinetics in both source and sink organs
such as leaves and roots of ginseng plant, respectively, and to assess the changes in ginsenosides biosynthesis during ginseng
growth, we investigated the metabolic proﬁles from leaves and roots of 1-, 4-, and 6-year-old ﬁeld-grown ginseng plants.
Using an integrated non-targeted metabolomic approach, we identiﬁed in total 348 primary and secondary metabolites,
which provided us for the ﬁrst time a global metabolomic assessment of ginseng during growth, and morphogenesis. Strik-
ingly, the osmoprotectants and oxidized chemicals were highly accumulated in 4- and 6-year-old ginseng leaves suggested
that ginseng develop a wide range of metabolic strategies to adapt unfavorable conditions as they mature. In 6-year-old
plants, ginsenosides were decreased in leaves but increased in roots up to 1.2- to sixfold, supporting the view that there is a
long-distance transport of ginsenosides from leaves to roots as ginseng plants mature. Our ﬁndings provide insights into the
metabolic kinetics during the development of ginseng plant and this could complement the pharmacological importance of
ginseng and its compounds according to their age.
Keywords Panax ginseng · Development · Ginsenosides · Metabolomics · Osmoprotectants
Ginseng (Panax ginseng Meyer) is an adaptogenic herb in
the Araliaceae family that has been cultivated in East Asia
for thousands of years. The ginseng roots were shown to
have antitumor, antidiabetic, antiaging, immune and improv-
ing cognitive function and are rich in secondary metabolites
(Kim et al. 2015). Among the known metabolites in gin-
seng roots, triterpene saponins (also called ginsenosides)
are nearly exclusively found in ginseng and widely recog-
nized as the main active ingredient that contributes to its
pharmacological eﬃcacy. The backbone of ginsenosides
are dammarenediol, which is being cyclized from squalene
mostly via the mevalonic acid pathway (MVP) in the cyto-
sol, including the protopanaxadiol (PPD) and the proto-
panaxatriol (PPT) groups (Oh et al. 2014; Kim et al. 2015).
Communicated by Fumihiko Sato.
Yu-Jin Kim and Sung Chul Joo contributed equally to the work.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00299-017-2236-7) contains
supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
* Yu-Jin Kim
* Deok-Chun Yang
* Dabing Zhang
Extended author information available on the last page of the article