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Plant Physiol. 2007 Apr;143(4):1484-92. Epub 2007 Feb 2.

Rapid classification of phenotypic mutants of Arabidopsis via metabolite fingerprinting.

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Institute of Plant Sciences, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland.


We evaluated the application of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry metabolic fingerprinting to classify forward genetic mutants with similar phenotypes. Mutations affecting distinct metabolic or signaling pathways can result in common phenotypic traits that are used to identify mutants in genetic screens. Measurement of a broad range of metabolites provides information about the underlying processes affected in such mutants. Metabolite profiles of Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) mutants defective in starch metabolism and uncharacterized mutants displaying a starch-excess phenotype were compared. Each genotype displayed a unique fingerprint. Statistical methods grouped the mutants robustly into distinct classes. Determining the genes mutated in three uncharacterized mutants confirmed that those clustering with known mutants were genuinely defective in starch metabolism. A mutant that clustered away from the known mutants was defective in the circadian clock and had a pleiotropic starch-excess phenotype. These results indicate that metabolic fingerprinting is a powerful tool that can rapidly classify forward genetic mutants and streamline the process of gene discovery.

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