Metabolites are the small chemical components in every cell. Major traits such as food quality, taste, nutritional value, toxicity, allergenicity etc are all directly correlated with the presence or absence of specific combinations of metabolites. Importantly, it is often this combination of metabolites, rather than the presence of individual compounds, which is of greatest biological relevance. In particular, complex traits such as flavour and nutritional value also inevitably have a complex biochemical background. Metabolomics technologies have therefore been developed to give us the broadest possible overview of the biochemical composition of biological materials without having to have prior metabolic knowledge.
Within Plant Research International we have established a metabolomics platform for large-scale, non-targeted metabolomic analyses. This platform comprises an MS –based system where both GC (Gas chromatography) and LC (Liquid Chromatography) are used for the initial separation of complex extracts. For NMR analyses we have established a collaboration with the Wageningen University.
Our primary activities are geared towards both technology development as well as technology application. The broad applicability of this technology has resulted in a wide range of biological problems being tackled – from population screening to biochemical marker detection for authenticity analysis and from flavour characterization to plant-microbe interaction studies. It is in particular this broad applicability and wide interest across both science and many sectors of industry which creates the main driving force behind further technology development.