Plants have tremendous capacity to adjust their morphology, physiology and metabolism in response to changes in growing conditions. Thus, analysis solely of plants grown under constant conditions may give partial or misleading indications of their responses to the fluctuating natural conditions in which they evolved. To obtain data on growth condition-dependent differences in metabolite levels, we compared leaf metabolite profiles of Arabidopsis thaliana growing under three constant laboratory light conditions: 30 [low light (LL)], 300 [normal light (NL)] and 600 [high light (HL)]µmol photons m(-2) s(-1). We also shifted plants to the field and followed their metabolite composition for 3 d. Numerous compounds showed light intensity-dependent accumulation, including: many sugars and sugar derivatives (fructose, sucrose, glucose, galactose and raffinose); tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediates; and amino acids (ca. 30% of which were more abundant under HL and 60% under LL). However, the patterns differed after shifting NL plants to field conditions. Levels of most identified metabolites (mainly amino acids, sugars and TCA cycle intermediates) rose after 2 h and peaked after 73 h, indicative of a 'biphasic response' and 'circadian' effects. The results provide new insight into metabolomic level mechanisms of plant acclimation, and highlight the role of known protectants under natural conditions.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.