The genetics of plant metabolism

Nat Genet. 2006 Jul;38(7):842-9. doi: 10.1038/ng1815. Epub 2006 Jun 4.


Variation for metabolite composition and content is often observed in plants. However, it is poorly understood to what extent this variation has a genetic basis. Here, we describe the genetic analysis of natural variation in the metabolite composition in Arabidopsis thaliana. Instead of focusing on specific metabolites, we have applied empirical untargeted metabolomics using liquid chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF MS). This uncovered many qualitative and quantitative differences in metabolite accumulation between A. thaliana accessions. Only 13.4% of the mass peaks were detected in all 14 accessions analyzed. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of more than 2,000 mass peaks, detected in a recombinant inbred line (RIL) population derived from the two most divergent accessions, enabled the identification of QTLs for about 75% of the mass signals. More than one-third of the signals were not detected in either parent, indicating the large potential for modification of metabolic composition through classical breeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / chemistry
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Flavonols / metabolism
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genetic Variation
  • Glucosinolates / metabolism
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Quantitative Trait Loci


  • Flavonols
  • Glucosinolates