About the Medicinal Plant Metabolomic Resources

Natural products from plants serve as rich resources for drug development with almost 100 plant-derived compounds in clinical trials in 2007. Plant derived natural products have had a profound and lasting impact on human health and include compounds successfully used for decades such as digitalis, vincristine, Taxol and morphine isolated from foxglove, periwinkle, yew, and opium poppy, respectively. The enormous structural diversity and biological activities of plant-derived compounds suggest that additional, medicinally relevant compounds remain to be discovered in plants.

Providing the metabolome for medicinally relevant plant species is one means to reveal a deeper understanding of the metabolic potential of plants and thus give investigators the opportunity to uncover sites of synthesis and accumulation of structurally diverse compounds. Determining the metabolome for a plant involves the profiling of the small molecules (chemical compounds varying in size from 100 to 2,500 atomic mass units) found throughout the plant in all the tissues and organs, and in response to a variety of growth conditions or treatments. No single analytic method is sufficient to observe all the chemical diversity within a plant, but LC-TOF (liquid chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry) is considered a leading method to document the non-targeted profile of small molecules. Non-targeted profiling refers to a means for documenting the presence of metabolites broadly and without bias to one particular class of compounds versus another.

There are many different ways how metabolomes and metabolomics tools can be used to advance drug development. For instance, an investigator desiring to test digitoxin derivatives for a particular disease indication might like to know in what tissue of the Digitalis plant is the greatest chemical diversity of the digitoxin molecule likely to be found. The Digitalis metabolome could thus be searched for digitoxin-like compounds having a particular range of molecule mass, and those tissues having the greatest amounts and diversity of these compounds used for biological screens. Or perhaps an investigator wished to explore the prospects of introducing a new biochemical modification into an existing family of compounds. That mechanism might be described as a biochemical reaction introducing a chemical modification to a chemical scaffold. The investigator might then screen all the MPC metabolomes for this chemical transformation by looking for what plant and in what tissue a particular metabolite, defined by its molecular mass, might be found. Coupled with the associated MPC genomic resources (http://medicinalplantgenomics.msu.edu/), the investigator would then have another tool set for finding the gene encoding for this biochemical transformation and once identified, could deploy this gene into heterologous hosts to effect this biochemical modification onto the chemicals of choice. The MPC metabolomes can also be used for developing the metabolomic barcodes to qualify plant materials going into drug manufacturing. Purifying drugs from natural sources is often complicated by the complexity of the all the associated metabolites. If a purification protocol is developed for a plant tissue exhibiting a particular metabolomic profile, then subsequent batch preparations can be qualified prior to the purification work for their metabolomics profile to minimize the potential of co-purifying contaminants. Medicinal Plant Metabolomics Website is maintained and hosted by the Wurtele laboratory in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology at Iowa State University.


September 11, 2013

New PMR is a public database & analysis software for metabolomics and transcriptomics data for natural product discovery. please contact Manhoi Hur (mhhur at iastate.edu) or Eve Wurtele (mash at iastate.edu)
Journal Cover:Nat. Prod. Rep., 2013, 30, 565-583

Sept 6, 2012

The metabolomic resources for 14 medicinal plant species are now available for general access and use. If you encounter difficulties with this resource, please contact Eve Wurtele (mash@iastate.edu) or Joe Chappell (chappell@uky.edu)

November 4, 2011

The metabolomic resources for Echinacea purpurea are now available for general access and use. If you encounter difficulties with this resource, please contact Eve Wurtele (mash@iastate.edu) or Joe Chappell (chappell@uky.edu)

November 1, 2011

The first public metabolomics datasets have been released! For more information, please see the latest press releases

What is metabolomics?

Metabolomics is the science of determining the metabolome of a biological sample.

What is the metabolome?

The metabolome is the collection of small organic molecules in a cell.

Why is determining the metabolome important?

The metabolome of a biological sample is a snap-shot of that sample's metabolic status. This snap-shot integrates the history of the combined genetic and environmental influences on the metabolism of that sample. By comparing the metabolomes of samples, one is able to gain insights as to the genetic, environmental and developmental modulators that distinguish the samples.

How to use Medicinal Plant Metabolomics Resource Help