, Volume 8, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 123-130,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 11 Apr 2011

Pair-wise multicomparison and OPLS analyses of cold-acclimation phases in Siberian spruce


Analysis of metabolomics data often goes beyond the task of discovering biomarkers and can be aimed at recovering other important characteristics of observed metabolomic changes. In this paper we explore different methods to detect the presence of distinctive phases in seasonal-responsive changes of metabolomic patterns of Siberian spruce (Picea obovata) during cold acclimation occurred in the period from mid-August to January. Multivariate analysis, specifically orthogonal projection to latent structures discriminant analysis (OPLS-DA), identified time points where the metabolomic patterns underwent substantial modifications as a whole, revealing four distinctive phases during acclimation. This conclusion was re-examined by a univariate analysis consisting of multiple pair-wise comparisons to identify homogeneity intervals for each metabolite. These tests complemented OPLS-DA, clarifying biological interpretation of the classification: about 60% of metabolites found responsive to the cold stress indeed changed at one or more of the time points predicted by OPLS-DA. However, the univariate approach did not support the proposed division of the acclimation period into four phases: less than 10% of metabolites altered during the acclimation had homogeneous levels predicted by OPLS-DA. This demonstrates that coupling the classification found by OPLS-DA and the analysis of dynamics of individual metabolites obtained by pair-wise multicomparisons reveals a more correct characterization of biochemical processes in freezing tolerant trees and leads to interpretations that cannot be deduced by either method alone. The combined analysis can be used in other ‘omics’-studies, where response factors have a causal dependence (like the time in the present work) and pair-wise multicomparisons are not conservative.