Using metabolomics as a functional genomics tool to understand abiotic stress adaptation and tolerance in cereals
1Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia,
2Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide, Glen Osmond, SA, Australia
An increasingly important approach in plant functional genomics is to monitor and compare the levels of transcripts, proteins and metabolites in particular biological processes. The specific goal of metabolomics is to provide a comprehensive and non-targeted analysis of metabolites in a biological system. It has been estimated that, within the plant kingdom, over 200,000 metabolites can be produced, with abundance varying over more than 6 orders of magnitude. We are developing an analytical platform based on GC-MS and LC-MS/MS technology for the detection and quantification of metabolites in different tissues of cereals, such as leaf, root or endosperm, in plants which were exposed to many different types of environmental stresses. We are comparing the metabolite profiles of different barley cultivars, which exhibit different levels of (1) tolerance to a range of abiotic stresses, such as mineral toxicity (boron and salinity) and deficiency (phosphate and zinc), and (2) susceptibility to biotic stress by infecting barley plants with the fungus Rhynchosporium secalis. We are able to investigate the general role of metabolites in stress adaptation processes and to define stress-related metabolic networks. In future, this will give us the opportunity to identify metabolites responsible for increased tolerance to different stresses and may be applied to breeding and generation of new stress tolerant crops. The presentation will provide an overview of the metabolomics methodological approach and then provide selected examples of results obtained in barley.