In January 2010 the NSF Plant Genome Research Program began funding ($1,918,691 for three years) a project to develop plant metabolomics methodology that extends my previous work using stable isotopic labeling for metabolite identification. The support will enable the purchase of two new mass spectrometers ($498,500 budgeted) that will reside in Alderman Hall and includes a significant mass spectral library database creation effort. Jerry Cohen is a Co-PI on the project; the following is the Project Summary from the funded proposal:
The ability to quantitatively monitor the dynamics of metabolites in an organism is critical to fully understand the complex interactions of biology’s Central Dogma. In part because of the diversity of compounds found in living organisms, especially in plants, the ability to define this critical area in the functional analysis of living plants has been slower to develop than nucleic acid and protein methods. This research addresses impediments to the development of techniques and uses metabolic variations occurring in response to stress conditions as a test system. The present limitations include the rather low numbers of compounds that have typically been identified, relatively insensitive procedures that yield insufficient spatial resolution and the dearth of true quantitative methods. The specific aims are: 1) provide improved sample preparation and derivatization methods that yield structural information to create new spectral library resources for metabolite identification by LC and GC MS, 2) use stable isotope metabolically labeled plant materials for isotope dilution with robust quantification by LC and GC MS and MS/MS. The work will be focused on rice and tomato, but with the expectation that the methods and procedures will be generally applicable to many plant species.
Dr. Paul Boswell started working on tools for using LC-retention behavior for metabolite annotation in LC-MS while working on this project as a postdoc. He has since been promoted to Assistant Research Professor and has secured his own funding from the NIH to continue developing these methods. Please see the following websites describing his (and collaborators) work: