Oliver, M J, et al., A Sister Group Contrast Using Untargeted Global Metabolomic Analysis Delineates the Biochemical Regulation Underlying Desiccation Tolerance in Sporobolus Stapfianus. Plant Cell, 2011. 23(4): 1231-48.
Understanding how plants tolerate dehydration is a prerequisite for developing novel strategies for improving drought tolerance. The desiccation-tolerant (DT) Sporobolus stapfianus and the desiccation-sensitive (DS) Sporobolus pyramidalis formed a sister group contrast to reveal adaptive metabolic responses to dehydration using untargeted global metabolomic analysis. Young leaves from both grasses at full hydration or at 60% relative water content (RWC) and from S. stapfianus at lower RWCs were analyzed using liquid and gas chromatography linked to mass spectrometry or tandem mass spectrometry. Comparison of the two species in the fully hydrated state revealed intrinsic differences between the two metabolomes. S. stapfianus had higher concentrations of osmolytes, lower concentrations of metabolites associated with energy metabolism, and higher concentrations of nitrogen metabolites, suggesting that it is primed metabolically for dehydration stress. Further reduction of the leaf RWC to 60% instigated a metabolic shift in S. stapfianus toward the production of protective compounds, whereas S. pyramidalis responded differently. The metabolomes of S. stapfianus leaves below 40% RWC were strongly directed toward antioxidant production, nitrogen remobilization, ammonia detoxification, and soluble sugar production. Collectively, the metabolic profiles obtained uncovered a cascade of biochemical regulation strategies critical to the survival of S. stapfianus under desiccation.