Dr. Oliver Fiehn
Group "Metabolomic Analysis"
New position: Full Professor, Metabolomics, Genome Center, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California
The group studied the regulation of plant biochemical pathways in order to learn more about source-sink relationships in plants, and developed methods for metabolomic analysis using mass spectrometry coupled with gas and liquid chromatography (GC/MS and LC/MS). Metabolomic analysis is aimed at the comprehensive and quantitative analysis of all metabolites of a biological system, and necessarily includes novel strategies for compound identification and bioinformatic data mining.
Sites of carbon fixation are linked to sites of net consumption via the vascular system. Almost all metabolites can be transported, depending on the developmental stage of a source leaf, and the varying needs of strong sinks such as fruits, tubers, or flowers. Therefore, the study of source-sink relationships cannot be restricted to specific biochemical pathways or selected organs. Instead, a systemic approach is needed that views metabolic networks in different organs in response to plant development and its environment. The group used Arabidopsis thaliana, Solanum tuberosum, and Cucurbitaceae as model organisms.
Methods to analyze such networks need continuing efforts for development in terms of robustness and preciseness. Therefore, a strong focus of the group's work was to improve the ability to detect and visualize such networks. We employed mass spectrometric and other analytical tools to generate complex data sets, that are analyzed by statistical and bioinformational tools. The group also extended metabolomic applications to related fields of biological research such as functional genomics, or the investigation of 'substantial equivalence' of GMO plants.