Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 429–437 | Cite as

Metabolic changes in transgenic maize mature seeds over-expressing the Aspergillus niger phyA2

  • Jun Rao
  • Litao Yang
  • Jinchao Guo
  • Sheng Quan
  • Guihua Chen
  • Xiangxiang Zhao
  • Dabing Zhang
  • Jianxin Shi
Original Article


Key message

Non-targeted metabolomics analysis revealed only intended metabolic changes in transgenic maize over-expressing the Aspergillus niger phyA2.


Genetically modified (GM) crops account for a large proportion of modern agriculture worldwide, raising increasingly the public concerns of safety. Generally, according to substantial equivalence principle, if a GM crop is demonstrated to be equivalently safe to its conventional species, it is supposed to be safe. In this study, taking the advantage of an established non-target metabolomic profiling platform based on the combination of UPLC-MS/MS with GC–MS, we compared the mature seed metabolic changes in transgenic maize over-expressing the Aspergillus niger phyA2 with its non-transgenic counterpart and other 14 conventional maize lines. In total, levels of nine out of identified 210 metabolites were significantly changed in transgenic maize as compared with its non-transgenic counterpart, and the number of significantly altered metabolites was reduced to only four when the natural variations were taken into consideration. Notably, those four metabolites were all associated with targeted engineering pathway. Our results indicated that although both intended and non-intended metabolic changes occurred in the mature seeds of this GM maize event, only intended metabolic pathway was found to be out of the range of the natural metabolic variation in the metabolome of the transgenic maize. Therefore, only when natural metabolic variation was taken into account, could non-targeted metabolomics provide reliable objective compositional substantial equivalence analysis on GM crops.


GC–MS Phytase Safety assessment Transgenic Substantial equivalence UPLC-MS/MS 



We thank Dr. Rumei Chen from China Academy of Agricultural Sciences for supplying the seeds of transgenic maize overexpressing Aspergillus niger phyA2 and its non-transgenic counterpart used in present study. We also thank Dr. Guorun Qu, Ms. Fang Cheng, Qian Luo, and Jing Zhou for their assistance in the metabolomic analysis. This work was supported by the China National Transgenic Plant Special Fund (2013ZX08012-002 and 2014ZX08012-002), and the Programme of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities (111 Project, B14016) to Dabing Zhang.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

299_2015_1894_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (76 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 75 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jun Rao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Litao Yang
    • 1
  • Jinchao Guo
    • 1
  • Sheng Quan
    • 1
    • 3
  • Guihua Chen
    • 1
  • Xiangxiang Zhao
    • 4
  • Dabing Zhang
    • 1
    • 5
  • Jianxin Shi
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Joint International Research Laboratory of Metabolic and Developmental SciencesSJTU-University of Adelaide Joint Centre for Agriculture and Health, School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Shanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Jiangxi Provincial Cancer HospitalNanchangChina
  3. 3.Shanghai Ruifeng Agro-biotechnology Co. LtdShanghaiChina
  4. 4.Departmen of Life ScienceHuaiyin Normal CollegeHuaianChina
  5. 5.School of Agriculture, Food and WineUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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