Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New technique yields never-before-seen information critical to biofuels research

15.08.2012
Pioneering mass spectrometry methods developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Ames Laboratory are helping plant biologists get their first glimpses of never-before-seen plant tissue structures.
The new method opens up new realms of study, ones that might have long-ranging implications for biofuels research and crop genetics.

“The data we’re seeing are unprecedented,” said Basil Nikolau, the Ames Laboratory faculty scientist heading up the project, funded by DOE’s Office of Science.

The laboratory’s team of researchers has developed a new more highly sensitive mass spectrometry technique to investigate metabolites, the small molecules that are the building blocks for plant biological processes.
Young-Jin Lee, a faculty scientist in Ames Laboratory’s Chemical and Biological Sciences Division, has successfully demonstrated the use of matrix-assisted laser deposition/ionization-mass spectrometry, or MALDI-MS, to map the lipids in cottonseed in a recent paper published in The Plant Cell, a premier research publication in plant science.

The research group’s technique is also featured in a paper published in a special issue of The Plant Journal, highlighting new developments in high resolution measurements in plant biology. The imaging technique can make maps of the locations of molecules in plant materials with resolution of 10 to 50 microns, less than a quarter the size of a human hair.

MALDI-MS has been in use in the medical and pharmaceutical fields for about the last decade, Lee said.

“In the medical field researchers were using this type of spectrometry to map proteins in human cancers and visualize the distribution of drugs through tissues. But in recent years the scientific community began to look at MALDI-MS as a possibility for mapping metabolites in plant material,” said Lee.

Traditional methods in gas chromatography and mass spectrometry told plant biologists the “what and how much” of plant metabolites, but not the “where.”

“Before these advances, in order to analyze plant material, biologists were forced to crush up tissue. We would lose spatial information, where these metabolites were located in different types of plant cells,” said Nikolau.

“The traditional methods provided qualitative and quantitative analysis, but it lost all localization of these small molecules,” said Lee. “With this technique we can see the distribution of these metabolites in the plant tissue at the single cell level.”

In Lee’s study of cottonseeds, done in partnership with a team of U.S. and German scientists, the technique showed a distribution of lipids that varies with tissue function. The knowledge could yield useful information about cottonseed, a crop valued as a possible source of biofuel and for its oil in the food industry.
“This information is really so new to scientists that we don’t know yet what it means. As a matter of fact, it challenges plant biologists at the moment to take hold of that data and integrate it into the way they do their science,” said Nikolau. “This data will change the future of how we do research.”

Lee said that though there was still much to learn about developing procedures using MALDI-MS to detect the tiny amounts of material in cells, he expects the use of the technique in plant science to gain wider use.

“Up until this point, this method has not really been recognized by plant scientists. But we were able to bring the technologies of analytical chemistry to the biological science problem of being able to map molecules at the single cell level. There is still a lot to learn about the process, but this technique is going to blossom very rapidly in the next few years.”

Nikolau believes the technology will be a key to thoroughly understanding plant biosynthesis, and in turn alternative energy production.

“This is really about the sustainability of our chemical world,” he said. “When you’re talking about chemical energy, you’re talking about carbon. Historically, over the last 100 years, it’s been carbon from petroleum. If you’re going to make biorenewable chemicals, the carbon comes in through photosynthesis, through plants. That process happens in discrete compartments within the organism, within individual cells. Science needs to know that highly detailed spatial information to take full advantage of it.”

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

The Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. The Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

Laura Millsaps | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ameslab.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>