Working group Plant-Microbe Metabolomics

Metabolomics aims at the comprehensive qualitative and quantitative determination of all low molecular mass compounds produced by a biological system. This young emerging discipline offers a fascinating field for mass spectrometry-based research and enables to investigate how phenotypes (visible as the set of metabolites) are influenced by defined biotic and abiotic perturbations.

The working group 2019. From left to right: Asja Ceranic, Christoph Büschl, Kristina Mißbach, Alexandra Parich, Hannes Gratzl, Rainer Schuhmacher, Maria Doppler, Bernhard Seidl. Anthi Vlassi and Eva Knoch are missing on this picture.

Core activities

Our research is carried out in close cooperation with partners from various disciplines such as computer science, molecular biology, mycology, phytopathology or entomology and comprises the following core activities:

  • Development and application of advanced metabolomics workflows
  • Study of microbes, plants, insects & their interactions
  • Analytics of secondary, primary & volatile metabolites
  • Purification, isolation and characterization of bioactive compounds
  • Quality assurance in metabolomics

A focus of our research consists of the interdisciplinary study of the the metabolism of plants and microbes. By investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying interactions between these organisms, we aim to contribute to a better understanding of both plant diseases as well as mutualistic biological cooperations.

Our approach

For the development of improved metabolomics workflows and their application in biological studies, we mainly use liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). These techniques are combined with stable isotope assisted approaches. The use of stable isotopes such as 13C, 15N and 34S in form of labelled metabolites or globally labelled biological samples has several advantages, which we try to exploit systematically for the

  • improved capture of the entire metabolome of the biological system under investigation
  • untargeted yet selective elucidation of tracer-derived (bio)transformation products
  • more accurate comparative quantification of differentially produced metabolites
  • more meaningful and reliable annotation of metabolite structures
  • development of novel cutting-edge software tools for the automated processing of LC-MS and GC-MS raw data

Current Research Projects

In our research projects we are continuously working on the further development of the metabolomics platform. In addition, the existing methods are being applied to study the metabolome of different filamentous fungi (e.g. Fusarium, Trichoderma, Botrytis), plants (e.g. wheat, maize and grapevine) or insects. A major aim of our research projects is to provide novel basic insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying antagonistic (e.g. Fusarium-wheat or grapevine-phylloxera) as well as mutualistic (e.g. Trichoderma-plant) interactions.

Short descriptions of all ongoing projects can be accessed from the research portal of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU)