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Responses of the pea (Pisum sativum L.) leaf metabolome to drought stress assessed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

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While many compounds have been reported to change in laboratory based drought-stress experiments, little is known about how such compounds change, and are significant, under field conditions. The Pisum sativum L. (pea) leaf metabolome has been profiled, using 1D and 2D NMR spectroscopy, to monitor the changes induced by drought-stress, under both glasshouse and simulated field conditions. Significant changes in resonances were attributed to a range of compounds, identified as both primary and secondary metabolites, highlighting metabolic pathways that are stress-responsive. Importantly, these effects were largely consistent among different experiments with highly diverse conditions. The metabolites that were present at significantly higher concentrations in drought-stressed plants under all growth conditions included proline, valine, threonine, homoserine, myoinositol, γ-aminobutyrate (GABA) and trigonelline (nicotinic acid betaine). Metabolites that were altered in relative amounts in different experiments, but not specifically associated with drought-stress, were also identified. These included glutamate, asparagine and malate, with the last being present at up to 5-fold higher concentrations in plants grown in field experiments. Such changes may be expected to impact both on plant performance and crop end-use.

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We are very grateful to Marie Bowen and Alison Wheal, John Innes Centre, for consistent and dedicated help with monitoring and harvesting plants and documentation of data. The field experiments involving transgenic plants were carried out under Defra consent 03/R29/4. Parts of the work were supported by Defra, United Kingdom (Grant Nos. AR0105 and AR0711, the Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network) and by the European Union (Grain Legumes Integrated Project, a Framework Programme 6 project, Grant No. FOOD-CT-2004-506223).

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Correspondence to Adrian J. Charlton.

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Charlton, A.J., Donarski, J.A., Harrison, M. et al. Responses of the pea (Pisum sativum L.) leaf metabolome to drought stress assessed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Metabolomics 4, 312 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11306-008-0128-0

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  • Pea leaf metabolome
  • Drought-stress
  • NMR spectroscopy