Scientists Develop Computational Metabolomic Approach to Measure Metabolic Diversity in Different Plant Tissues

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena and the University of Heidelberg, Germany, have illuminated the diversity and different accumulation of chemical substances in the tissues of the ecological model plant Nicotiana attenuata. To obtain their results, the scientists used computational metabolomics and information theory. This approach was specifically designed for this study and enabled the researchers to study plant metabolism at the level of single organs. This new method allows for a more efficient access to the diversity of plant metabolites and for a more rapid identification of the genes which regulate their biosynthesis. The results were published online in early November 2016 in PNAS. The open-access article is titled “Illuminating a Plant's Tissue-Specific Metabolic Diversity Using Computational Metabolomics and Information Theory.” Plants are master organic chemists. They are able to produce very complex blends of different chemical substances. The biosynthesis and the accumulation of plant secondary metabolites are physiologically adapted to the individual requirements in the respective plant tissues. A team of scientists led by Emmanuel Gaquerel, Ph.D., from the University of Heidelberg and Ian Baldwin, Ph.D., from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology has now analyzed the metabolome, the entire set of chemicals, in the tissues of the ecological model plant Nicotiana attenuata. The following questions were of central interest: which plant tissues exhibit distinct metabolic profiles; which plant secondary metabolites are primarily accumulated locally in the tissues of particular organs; and finally, how can this information contribute to the identification of the genes that regulate metabolite production?
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