The unbiased and comprehensive analysis of metabolites in any organism presents a major challenge if proper peak annotation and unambiguous assignment of the biological origin of the peaks are required. Here we provide a comprehensive multi-isotope labelling-based strategy using fully labelled (13) C, (15) N and (34) S plant tissues, in combination with a fractionated metabolite extraction protocol. The extraction procedure allows for the simultaneous extraction of polar, semi-polar and hydrophobic metabolites, as well as for the extraction of proteins and starch. After labelling and extraction, the metabolites and lipids were analysed using a high-resolution mass spectrometer providing accurate MS and all-ion fragmentation data, providing an unambiguous readout for every detectable isotope-labelled peak. The isotope labelling assisted peak annotation process employed can be applied in either an automated database-dependent or a database-independent analysis of the plant polar metabolome and lipidome. As a proof of concept, the developed methods and technologies were applied and validated using Arabidopsis thaliana leaf and root extracts. Along with a large repository of assigned elemental compositions, which is provided, we show, using selected examples, the accuracy and reliability of the developed workflow.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.