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Anal Chem. 2016 Feb 16;88(4):2406-12. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.5b04452. Epub 2016 Feb 4.

Capturing in Vivo Plant Metabolism by Real-Time Analysis of Low to High Molecular Weight Volatiles.

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Department of Energy Engineering and Fluid Dynamics, University of Valladolid , 47002 Valladolid, Spain.
SEADM S.L., 28036 Madrid, Spain.
Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich , 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.
Fossil Ion Technology S.L., 28036 Madrid, Spain.
Science Zurich - Zurich PhD Program Molecular Life Sciences, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


We have deployed an efficient secondary electrospray ionization source coupled to an Orbitrap mass analyzer (SESI-MS) to investigate the emissions of a Begonia semperflorens. We document how hundreds of species can be tracked with an unparalleled time resolution of 2 min during day-night cycles. To further illustrate the capabilities of this system for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) analysis, we subjected the plant to mechanical damage and monitored its response. As a result, ∼1200 VOCs were monitored displaying different kinetics. To validate the soundness of our in vivo measurements, we fully characterized some key compounds via tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) and confirmed their expected behavior based on prior gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) studies. For example, β-caryophyllene, which is directly related to photosynthesis, was found to show a periodic day-night pattern with highest concentrations during the day. We conclude that the capability of SESI-MS to capture highly dynamic VOC emissions and wide analyte coverage makes it an attractive tool to complement GC/MS in plant studies.

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