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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 15;6(3):e17806. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017806.

A topological map of the compartmentalized Arabidopsis thaliana leaf metabolome.

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Botanical Institute, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.



The extensive subcellular compartmentalization of metabolites and metabolism in eukaryotic cells is widely acknowledged and represents a key factor of metabolic activity and functionality. In striking contrast, the knowledge of actual compartmental distribution of metabolites from experimental studies is surprisingly low. However, a precise knowledge of, possibly all, metabolites and their subcellular distributions remains a key prerequisite for the understanding of any cellular function.


Here we describe results for the subcellular distribution of 1,117 polar and 2,804 lipophilic mass spectrometric features associated to known and unknown compounds from leaves of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Using an optimized non-aqueous fractionation protocol in conjunction with GC/MS- and LC/MS-based metabolite profiling, 81.5% of the metabolic data could be associated to one of three subcellular compartments: the cytosol (including the mitochondria), vacuole, or plastids. Statistical analysis using a marker-'free' approach revealed that 18.5% of these metabolites show intermediate distributions, which can either be explained by transport processes or by additional subcellular compartments.


Next to a functional and conceptual workflow for the efficient, highly resolved metabolite analysis of the fractionated Arabidopsis thaliana leaf metabolome, a detailed survey of the subcellular distribution of several compounds, in the graphical format of a topological map, is provided. This complex data set therefore does not only contain a rich repository of metabolic information, but due to thorough validation and testing by statistical methods, represents an initial step in the analysis of metabolite dynamics and fluxes within and between subcellular compartments.

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