A Benchtop Fractionation Procedure for Subcellular Analysis of the Plant Metabolome

Lisa Fürtauer, Wolfram Weckwerth, Thomas Nägele

Although compartmentation is a key feature of eukaryotic cells, biological research is frequently limited by methods allowing for the comprehensive subcellular resolution of the metabolome. It has been widely accepted that such a resolution would be necessary in order to approximate cellular biochemistry and metabolic regulation, yet technical challenges still limit both the reproducible subcellular fractionation and the sample throughput being necessary for a statistically robust analysis. Here, we present a method and a detailed protocol which is based on the non-aqueous fractionation technique enabling the assignment of metabolites to their subcellular localization. The presented benchtop method aims at unraveling subcellular metabolome dynamics in a precise and statistically robust manner using a relatively small amount of tissue material. The method is based on the separation of cellular fractions via density gradients consisting of organic, non-aqueous solvents. By determining the relative distribution of compartment-specific marker enzymes together with metabolite profiles over the density gradient it is possible to estimate compartment-specific metabolite concentrations by correlation. To support this correlation analysis, a spreadsheet is provided executing a calculation algorithm to determine the distribution of metabolites over subcellular compartments. The calculation algorithm performs correlation of marker enzyme activity and metabolite abundance accounting for technical errors, reproducibility and the resulting error propagation. The method was developed, tested and validated in three natural accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana showing different ability to acclimate to low temperature. Particularly, amino acids were strongly shuffled between subcellular compartments in a cold-sensitive accession while a cold-tolerant accession was characterized by a stable subcellular metabolic homeostasis. Finally, we conclude that subcellular metabolome analysis is essential to unambiguously unravel regulatory strategies being involved in plant-environment interactions.

Department of Ecogenomics and Systems Biology, Large-Instrument Facility for Mass Spectrometry in Life Sciences, Research Platform Vienna Metabolomics Center
Frontiers in Plant Science
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Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
Systems biology
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