Chair of Plant Metabolomics

Metabolomics is the science of small molecules. Metabolomics analyses are performed using an advanced set of analytical platforms designed first to separate and then to detect many 100s of metabolites that are present in an extract of a plant tissue. The technologies being developed for these large-scale, potentially unbiased analyses are greatly changing our way of thinking about what is possible in plant biology. We are applying both Liquid Chromatography and Gas Chromatography together with Mass Spectrometry to study the biochemical composition of contrasting plant materials. Metabolomics is already giving plant scientists deeper insights into the complexity of plant metabolism and plant metabolic composition than were ever possible before.

Broad potential applicability already ranges from understanding the considerable complexity of primary metabolic networks in Arabidopsis, to the changes which occur in the biochemical composition of leaves which have been subjected to drought stress or insect attack. Results are revealing valuable information on how plant metabolism, while strictly controlled, is also highly dynamic. Plants, being sessile organisms, have to respond very rapidly to changes in their immediate environment and some of the earliest changes are centred upon a shift in their metabolic composition. Furthermore, with the parallel rapid development in complementary technologies such as Next Generation DNA Sequencing and sequencing-based transcriptomics approaches, we are now in a strong position to effectively use metabolomics as a generic approach to support crop-based research and breeding. Our research covers a wide range of species from tomato and rice to arabidopsis and melon.