Metabolomics: A Powerful Tool in Plant Biology and Breeding

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June 1, 2011

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  • Metabolomic profiling is a key technique in identifying differences and similarities between complex samples. Especially plants are known for their large variety of so-called secondary plant compounds, representing various chemical classes such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, alkaloids, terpenoids, glucosinolates, etcetera. By using comprehensive metabolomic profiling approaches, using different analytical platforms, combined with unbiased data-processing and biostatistics, insight into the similarities and differences in the metabolite composition between (groups of) plants can be obtained. Such detailed information is essential in, for instance, understanding differences in quality characteristics of plants and their products, to study biotic and abiotic stress responses in plants, and to identify genes and chromosomal loci regulating the production of phytonutrient composition in crops. Examples of the application of untargeted metabolomics profiling, and the subsequent workflow for data-processing and metabolite identification tools used at our institute, will be presented. For instance, by using comparative metabolomics of natural or induced mutants versus control plants, the effect of a specific gene in the in vivo production of phytochemicals can be established. By large-scale coupling of untargeted metabolomics data to genetic variation, loci controlling a specific metabolite composition have been identified, which information can be used as markers in breeding programs aimed to develop new and improved crop varieties. Also, through untargeted metabolomics approaches the effects of post-harvest treatments, such as food processing, on the metabolite composition of the final product can be determined thoroughly, enabling better control and optimizing key steps in food processing.

    Proteomics and Metabolomics

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