Author(s): Tugizimana F, Steenkamp PA, Piater LA, Dubery IA
Metabolomics is providing new dimensions into understanding the intracellular adaptive responses in plants to external stimuli. In this study, a multi-technology-metabolomic approach was used to investigate the effect of the fungal sterol, ergosterol, on the metabolome of cultured tobacco cells. Cell suspensions were treated with different concentrations (0-1000 nM) of ergosterol and incubated for different time periods (0-24 h). Intracellular metabolites were extracted with two methods: a selective dispersive liquid-liquid micro-extraction and a general methanol extraction. Chromatographic techniques (GC-FID, GC-MS, GC × GC-TOF-MS, UHPLC-MS) and (1)H NMR spectroscopy were used for quantitative and qualitative analyses. Multivariate data analyses (PCA and OPLS-DA models) were used to extract interpretable information from the multidimensional data generated from the analytical techniques. The results showed that ergosterol triggered differential changes in the metabolome of the cells, leading to variation in the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites. PCA scores plots revealed dose- and time-dependent metabolic variations, with optimal treatment conditions being found to be 300 nM ergosterol and an 18 h incubation period. The observed ergosterol-induced metabolic changes were correlated with changes in defence-related metabolites. The 'defensome' involved increases in terpenoid metabolites with five antimicrobial compounds (the bicyclic sesquiterpenoid phytoalexins: phytuberin, solavetivone, capsidiol, lubimin and rishitin) and other metabolites (abscisic acid and phytosterols) putatively identified. In addition, various phenylpropanoid precursors, cinnamic acid derivatives and - conjugates, coumarins and lignin monomers were annotated. These annotated metabolites revealed a dynamic reprogramming of metabolic networks that are functionally correlated, with a high complexity in their regulation.