New paper about the evolution of metabolic plasticity in plants and its implications for stress resistance


We studied how different natural accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana, a common model plant, adjust their metabolism to different temperature regimes.

We measured primary metabolites in 241 accessions grown at 6 °C and 16 °C, and analyzed the genetic and environmental factors that influence the metabolic variation and plasticity. We found that:

  • The metabolic response to temperature change was largely conserved across accessions, but some metabolites showed significant genotype-environment interactions.
  • The metabolic profiles and distances between the two temperatures were predictable from the genome and epigenome of the accessions.
  • The habitat temperature during the first quarter of the year was the best predictor of the plasticity of primary metabolism, indicating an evolutionary adaptation to cold stress.
  • A genome-wide association study identified FUMARASE2 as a candidate gene associated with cold adaptation, and a biochemical Jacobian analysis revealed that fumarate and sugar metabolism were the most affected by low temperature.
  • An epigenome-wide association study revealed potential links between differential methylation regions and metabolite levels, especially in the CpG context.

Our findings contribute to the understanding of how plants cope with changing environments by adjusting their metabolism, and how this process is shaped by natural genetic and epigenetic variation. The paper also demonstrates the power of combining metabolomics, genomics, epigenomics, and mathematical modeling to reveal the complex regulation of metabolic networks. The paper has implications for plant physiology, ecology, evolution, and biotechnology.

Read the full open access paper here:
Metabolome plasticity in 241 Arabidopsis thaliana accessions reveals evolutionary cold adaptation processes

J Weiszmann, D Walther, P Clauw, G Back, J Gunis, I Reichardt, ...

Plant Physiology, kiad298