Metabolomic profiling of anthropogenically threatened Australian seagrass Zostera muelleri using one- and two-dimensional gas chromatography

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Applied Environmental Metabolomics: Community Insights and Guidance from the Field, 2022, pp. 135-151
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The global decline of seagrass meadows due to sustained pressure from anthropogenic activities and the ongoing threat from climate change has weakened their capacity for supporting coastal productivity and fisheries habitats, while also increasing sediment erosion. The ongoing efforts to prevent seagrass decline require novel tools to monitor seagrass health and assess the effects of habitat management. Such monitoring tools require the use of sensitive indicators to assess the intensity of environmental stressors and to monitor the corresponding responses of seagrass. Environmental metabolomics has proven valuable in identifying such phenotypic traits of abiotic and biotic stress in plants. The identification of metabolite changes in seagrass linked to an environmental stress response may lead to the development of a molecular diagnostic tool that could be used to give an early warning of seagrass stress. Therefore, we explore the potential of one- and two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (1D and 2D GC-TOFMS) in Australia’s most threatened seagrass species—Zostera muelleri. Overall, GC×GC-TOFMS outperformed GC-TOFMS and offered a robust, comprehensive, and superior analytical sensitivity and resolution with a total of 156 metabolites compared to 93 identified in GC-TOFMS. Among these metabolites, >  50% were identified exclusively in GC×GC-TOFMS and include secondary metabolites of the phenylpropenoid class, phytohormones, and various sugar and amino acid derivatives. Therefore, GC×GC-TOFMS represents a comprehensive metabolomics platform for both discovery and targeted studies in seagrass that may aid diagnostic tool development for more targeted seagrass management.
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