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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Plant Sciences

UC Davis

Metabolite imaging with mass-spectrometry to unravel the surface of plants


The acetyl-CoA metabolic network is complex, being juxtaposed between anabolic and catabolic processes, and between core metabolism common to all life forms and specialized (secondary) metabolism that is often discreetly distributed among different taxa. Examples of metabolites that are generated from the acetyl-CoA network include such high-energy molecules as oils, hydrocarbons, waxes, and terpenoids, many of which have structural and/or signaling properties. This complexity is further compounded by the fact that within a specific taxon, these metabolic processes are often discreetly compartmentalized at the cellular and/ or subcellular levels. Therefore, to gain detailed insights into the structure and regulation of these metabolic processes one needs technologies that can visualize gene expression products at very high spatial resolution (at the single cell or subcellular level of resolution). Technologies for achieving this high-level of spatial resolution are relatively abundant for nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins, however techniques for visualizing metabolites with high spatial resolution need to be developed. We are developing mass-spectrometry based techniques to visualize the distribution of metabolites among plant cells and are exploring its utility in deciphering the surface metabolites of plants, which are products of the acetyl-CoA metabolic network.

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