Metabolic cartography: experimental quantification of metabolic fluxes from isotopic labelling studies

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Abstract

For the past decade, flux maps have provided researchers with an in-depth perspective on plant metabolism. As a rapidly developing field, significant headway has been made recently in computation, experimentation, and overall understanding of metabolic flux analysis. These advances are particularly applicable to the study of plant metabolism. New dynamic computational methods such as non-stationary metabolic flux analysis are finding their place in the toolbox of metabolic engineering, allowing more organisms to be studied and decreasing the time necessary for experimentation, thereby opening new avenues by which to explore the vast diversity of plant metabolism. Also, improved methods of metabolite detection and measurement have been developed, enabling increasingly greater resolution of flux measurements and the analysis of a greater number of the multitude of plant metabolic pathways. Methods to deconvolute organelle-specific metabolism are employed with increasing effectiveness, elucidating the compartmental specificity inherent in plant metabolism. Advances in metabolite measurements have also enabled new types of experiments, such as the calculation of metabolic fluxes based on 13CO2 dynamic labelling data, and will continue to direct plant metabolic engineering. Newly calculated metabolic flux maps reveal surprising and useful information about plant metabolism, guiding future genetic engineering of crops to higher yields. Due to the significant level of complexity in plants, these methods in combination with other systems biology measurements are necessary to guide plant metabolic engineering in the future.

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