Changes in plant metabolism are at the heart of plant developmental processes, underpinning many of the ways in which plants respond to the environment. As such, the comprehensive study of plant metabolism, or metabolomics, is highly valuable in identifying phenotypic effects of abiotic and biotic stresses on plants. When study is in reference to analysing samples that are relevant to environmental or ecologically based hypotheses, it is termed 'environmental metabolomics'. The emergence of environmental metabolomics as one of the latest of the omics technologies has been one of the most critically important recent developments in plant physiology. Its applications broach the entire landscape of plant ecology, from the understanding of plant plasticity and adaptation through to community composition and even genetic modification in crops. The multitude of novel studies published utilizing metabolomics methods employ a variety of techniques, from the initial stages of tissue sampling, through to sample preservation, transportation, and analysis. This review introduces the concept and applications of plant environmental metabolomics as an ecologically important investigative tool. It examines the main techniques used in situ within field sites, with particular reference to sampling and processing, and those more appropriate for use in laboratory-based settings with emphasis on secondary metabolite analysis.
- Environmental metabolomics
- mass spectrometry