The use of metabolomics to dissect plant responses to abiotic stresses

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Oct;69(19):3225-43. doi: 10.1007/s00018-012-1091-5. Epub 2012 Aug 12.


Plant metabolism is perturbed by various abiotic stresses. As such the metabolic network of plants must be reconfigured under stress conditions in order to allow both the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis and the production of compounds that ameliorate the stress. The recent development and adoption of metabolomics and systems biology approaches enable us not only to gain a comprehensive overview, but also a detailed analysis of crucial components of the plant metabolic response to abiotic stresses. In this review we introduce the analytical methods used for plant metabolomics and describe their use in studies related to the metabolic response to water, temperature, light, nutrient limitation, ion and oxidative stresses. Both similarity and specificity of the metabolic responses against diverse abiotic stress are evaluated using data available in the literature. Classically discussed stress compounds such as proline, γ-amino butyrate and polyamines are reviewed, and the widespread importance of branched chain amino acid metabolism under stress condition is discussed. Finally, where possible, mechanistic insights into metabolic regulatory processes are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Electrophoresis, Capillary
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Light
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Temperature
  • Water


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Water
  • Iron