Plants Grown in Aluminum Toxic Soils Exhibit Different Metabolite Profiles

Metabolomics is the study of the biochemical processes in an organism and how those processes are affected by biotic or abiotic stress. Understanding these mechanisms enables a broader view of how stress affects various biological systems and how the organism is susceptible or resistant to the stress. Currently, our research group is applying metabolomics and metabolite profiling to explore how plants respond to toxic soils, such as poisoning from aluminum which causes stunted plant growth and affects a significant portion of arable land. Herein we are applying GC-MS to explore the metabolic perturbations associated with aluminum toxicity and the possible coping strategies plants have developed. Recently, we have developed a sensitive selected ion monitoring (SIM) method to explore the metabolic effects of stress on plant mechanisms that increases sensitivity as well as selectivity. So far, we have doubled our sensitivity for many TCA cycle intermediates, that will help to quantify these metabolites in plant samples. In the plant sample, the root exudate has been explored using a gene knockout that prevents the TCA cycle from completing a full cycle in the exudate. This was shown by the accumulation of citric acid in the knockout when compared to the wild type. As the project proceeds, we are continuing to analyze plant samples in order to further understand the coping mechanisms of plants exposed to aluminum.


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