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New funding for the development of a metabolomics resistance test at the IBL

Researchers from the Plant Ecology and Phytochemistry group at the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) received an STW (Stichting Technologische Wetenschappen) grant for applied studies in plant herbivore resistance with potential for a novel resistance test.

Dr. Kirsten Leiss and Prof. Dr. Peter Klinkhamer received a STW grant for a project based on the use of metabolomics to study herbivore resistance. The project is entitled: ‘A metabolomics resistance test’.

Chrysanthemum is one of the most important ornamental flowers grown in the Netherlands. It accounts for a turnover of about € 400 million per year. The Netherlands producing, 1.6 million plants per year, holds 20% of the world market.

Chrysanthemum pests

The production is vulnerable to three important pests: western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae), and the celery leafminer (Liriomyza trifolii). Inadequate control of these pests leads to considerable losses. Control of chrysanthemum pests depends mainly on the use of pesticides. This leads to resistance, health, and environment related problems. An alternative is host plant resistance. This requires a reliable and quick method to screen for resistance in plants. At the time resistance to each pest needs to be tested separately, leading to a whole array of time consuming and costly tests. In this project we will develop and validate a metabolomics resistance test based on the main pests of chrysanthemum. Such a test is based on the development of standard metabolomic profiles of plants resistant to particular pests. With these it is possible to predict resistance to different pests by establishing just one metabolomic profile. All four leading Dutch chrysanthemum breeders have thus agreed to support our project. The economic value of a successful project however, shows an even bigger potential. A metabolomics resistance test is universal. It can be used for any economically important herbivore, pathogen and host plant.

Natural host plant defense against pests and pathogens is mainly based on secondary plant compounds. Up to now the study of chemical host plant resistance has, for technical reasons, been restricted to the identification of single compounds applying specific chemical analyses adapted to the compound in question. In biological processesFrom left to right: western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae), and the celery leafminer (Liriomyza trifolii)

From left to right: western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae), and the celery leafminer (Liriomyza trifolii)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metabolomics

Metabolomic profile of Chrysanthemum based on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural host plant defense against pests and pathogens is mainly based on secondary plant compounds. Up to now the study of chemical host plant resistance has, for technical reasons, been restricted to the identification of single compounds applying specific chemical analyses adapted to the compound in question. In biological processes however, usually different compounds, which identity are a priori unknown, are involved. A way to solve this problem is to use metabolomics. NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy) is one of the most universally used metabolomic approaches. It allows the simultaneous detection of a wide range of metabolites providing an instantaneous profile of a plant metabolome. NMR provides a general overview of the plant metabolome and is, therefore, of great interest to systems biology studies on all kind of biological processes. It is thus surprising that to date only a few metabolomic studies have focused on plant-host interactions.

The research proposed is based on an eco-metabolomic approach we developed as a proof of principle to show that NMR can constitute a major advancement in the study of host plant resistance: We classify resistant and susceptible plants in different environmental conditions and growth stages using in-vivo bioassays. Subsequently, we compare their metabolomic profiles by applying multivariate statistical analysis to identify metabolites involved in host plant resistance. The negative effect of the candidate compounds is cross-checked with in-vitro bioassays. With such an approach resistance to different pests can be predicted on the basis of just one metabolomic profile. An independent validation will be performed predicting the resistance of pests. The end result of this project is a high throughput metabolomics resistance test to substitute the time consuming and costly in vivo resistance bioassays, which have to be performed for each single pest or pathogen.

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