Professor Jerry Cohen

Project Title: 
Plant Metabolic Flux Analysis

With the recent explosion in accessible genome and mRNA nucleotide sequence data, there is increasing need for robust methods for connecting observable macroscopic or physiological phenotypes with their molecular determinants. Measurement of metabolic flux (the flow of matter through an organism’s network of metabolic pathways) is, arguably, the most direct molecular indicator of an organism phenotype. Gene transcription, translation, protein degradation and modification, signal transduction, and metabolic feedback are all integrated in a complex metabolic network to produce the observed flux through metabolism. Metabolic flux information describes how nutrient resources and stores are used by which segments of a metabolic network to generate and accumulate products required for growth, development, and differentiation, integrated with responses to environmental conditions. Correspondingly, metabolic flux analysis (MFA) provides a direct route for both the discovery (and subsequent manipulation) of the molecular bases of any number of complex plant behaviors. Unfortunately, most MFA is currently performed using cultured cells, both to provide homogeneity and an easy method for introduction isotope labeled nutrients. Several challenges need to be addressed before dynamic-MFA can be applied practically to intact plants for molecular phenotyping. For intact plants, MFA is made more complicated by requirements for non-trivial stable isotopic labeling approaches and by differences in metabolite inputs and utilization, transport and compartmentalization across a wide range of tissues, and cell types and developmental stages within a sampled specimen.

Project Investigators

Professor Jerry Cohen
Mark Esler
Professor Adrian Hegeman
Yectli Huerta
Renata Pincelli-Souza
Qian Tang
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