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Publications - Stress and Develop Biology

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Books and chapters

Schober, D., Salek R. M. & Neumann, S. Towards standardized evidence descriptors for metabolite annotations.. In: IN: Proceedings of the 7th Workshop on Ontologies and Data in Life Sciences, organized by the GI Workgroup Ontologies in Biomedicine and Life Sciences (OBML), Halle (Saale), Germany, September 29-30, 2016.  (Loebe, F.; Boeker, M.; Herre, H.; Jansen, L.; Schober, ). CEUR Workshop Proceedings 1692, E 5, (2016)

Motivation: Data on measured abundances of small molecules from biomaterial is currently accumulating in the literature and in online repositories. Unless formal machine-readable evidence assertions for such metabolite identifications are provided, quality assessment based re-use will be sparse. Existing annotation schemes are not universally adopted, nor granular enough to be of practical use in evidence-based quality assessment. Results: We review existing evidence schemes for metabolite identifications of variant semantic expressivity and derive requirements for a 'compliance-optimized' yet traceable annotation model. We present a pattern-based, yet simple taxonomy of intuitive and self-explaining descriptors that allow to annotate metab-olomics assay results both in literature and data bases with evidence information on small molecule analytics gained via technologies such as mass spectrometry or NMR. We present example annotations for typical mass spectrometry molecule assignments and outline next steps for integration with existing ontologies and metabolomics data exchange formats. Availability: An initial draft and documentation of the metabolite identification evidence code ontology is available at


Wohlgemuth, G., Mehta, S. S., Mejia, R. F., Neumann, S., Pedrosa, D., Pluskal, T., Schymanski, E. L., Willighagen, E. L., Wilson, M., Wishart, D. S., Arita, M., Dorrestein, P. C., Bandeira, N., Wang, M., Schulze, T., , Salek, R. M., Steinbeck, C., Nainala, V. C., Mistrik, R., Nishioka, T. & Fiehn, O. SPLASH, a hashed identifier for mass spectra. Nat Biotech 34, 1099-1101, (2016) DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3689


Treutler, H. & Neumann, S. Prediction, detection, and validation of isotope clusters in mass spectrometry data. Metabolites 6, (2016) DOI: 10.3390/metabo6040037

Mass spectrometry is a key analytical platform for metabolomics. The precise quantification and identification of small molecules is a prerequisite for elucidating the metabolism and the detection, validation, and evaluation of isotope clusters in LC-MS data is important for this task. Here, we present an approach for the improved detection of isotope clusters using chemical prior knowledge and the validation of detected isotope clusters depending on the substance mass using database statistics. We find remarkable improvements regarding the number of detected isotope clusters and are able to predict the correct molecular formula in the top three ranks in 92% of the cases. We make our methodology freely available as part of the Bioconductor packages xcms version 1.50.0 and CAMERA version 1.30.0.


Treutler, H., Tsugawa, H., Porzel, A., Gorzolka, K., Tissier, A., Neumann, S. & Balcke, G. U. Discovering regulated metabolite families in untargeted metabolomics studies. Anal Chem 88, 8082-8090, (2016) DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01569

The identification of metabolites by mass spectrometry constitutes a major bottleneck which considerably limits the throughput of metabolomics studies in biomedical or plant research. Here, we present a novel approach to analyze metabolomics data from untargeted, data-independent LC-MS/MS measurements. By integrated analysis of MS1 abundances and MS/MS spectra, the identification of regulated metabolite families is achieved. This approach offers a global view on metabolic regulation in comparative metabolomics. We implemented our approach in the web application “MetFamily”, which is freely available at http://msbi.ipb-halle.de/MetFamily/. MetFamily provides a dynamic link between the patterns based on MS1-signal intensity and the corresponding structural similarity at the MS/MS level. Structurally related metabolites are annotated as metabolite families based on a hierarchical cluster analysis of measured MS/MS spectra. Joint examination with principal component analysis of MS1 patterns, where this annotation 


Mönchgesang, S., Strehmel, N., Trutschel, D., Westphal, L., Neumann, S. & Scheel, D. Plant-to-plant variability in root metabolite profiles of 19 Arabidopsis thaliana accessions is substance-class-dependent Inter J Mol Sci 17, (2016) DOI: 10.3390/ijms17091565

Natural variation of secondary metabolism between different accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana (A. thaliana) has been studied extensively. In this study, we extended the natural variation approach by including biological variability (plant-to-plant variability) and analysed root metabolic patterns as well as their variability between plants and naturally occurring accessions. To screen 19 accessions of A. thaliana, comprehensive non-targeted metabolite profiling of single plant root extracts was performed using ultra performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC/ESI-QTOF-MS) and gas chromatography/electron ionization quadrupole mass spectrometry (GC/EI-QMS). Linear mixed models were applied to dissect the total observed variance. All metabolic profiles pointed towards a larger plant-to-plant variability than natural variation between accessions and variance of experimental batches. Ratios of plant-to-plant to total variability were high and distinct for certain secondary metabolites. None of the investigated accessions displayed a specifically high or low biological variability for these substance classes. This study provides recommendations for future natural variation analyses of glucosinolates, flavonoids, and phenylpropanoids and also reference data for additional substance classes.


Ranf, S., Scheel, D. & Lee, J. Challenges in the identification of microbe-associated molecular patterns in plant and animal innate immunity: a case study with bacterial lipopolysaccharide Mol Plant Pathol. 17, 1165–1169 , (2016) DOI: 10.1111/mpp.12452


Penselin, D., Münsterkötter, M., Kirsten, S., Felder, M., Taudien, S., Platzer, M., Ashelford, K., Paskiewicz, K. H., Harrison, R. J., Hughes, D. J., Wolf, T., Shelest, E., Graap, J., Hoffmann, J., Wenzel, C.: Wöltje, N., King, K. M., Fitt, B. D. L., Güldener, U., Avrova, A. & Knogge, W. Comparative genomics to explore phylogenetic relationship, cryptic sexual potential and host specificity of Rhynchosporium species on grasses BMC Genomics 17, 953, (2016) DOI: 10.1186/s12864-016-3299-5


The Rhynchosporium species complex consists of hemibiotrophic fungal pathogens specialized to different sweet grass species including the cereal crops barley and rye. A sexual stage has not been described, but several lines of evidence suggest the occurrence of sexual reproduction. Therefore, a comparative genomics approach was carried out to disclose the evolutionary relationship of the species and to identify genes demonstrating the potential for a sexual cycle. Furthermore, due to the evolutionary very young age of the five species currently known, this genus appears to be well-suited to address the question at the molecular level of how pathogenic fungi adapt to their hosts.


The genomes of the different Rhynchosporium species were sequenced, assembled and annotated using ab initio gene predictors trained on several fungal genomes as well as on Rhynchosporium expressed sequence tags. Structures of the rDNA regions and genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms provided a hypothesis for intra-genus evolution. Homology screening detected core meiotic genes along with most genes crucial for sexual recombination in ascomycete fungi. In addition, a large number of cell wall-degrading enzymes that is characteristic for hemibiotrophic and necrotrophic fungi infecting monocotyledonous hosts were found. Furthermore, the Rhynchosporium genomes carry a repertoire of genes coding for polyketide synthases and non-ribosomal peptide synthetases. Several of these genes are missing from the genome of the closest sequenced relative, the poplar pathogen Marssonina brunnea, and are possibly involved in adaptation to the grass hosts. Most importantly, six species-specific genes coding for protein effectors were identified in R. commune. Their deletion yielded mutants that grew more vigorously in planta than the wild type.


Both cryptic sexuality and secondary metabolites may have contributed to host adaptation. Most importantly, however, the growth-retarding activity of the species-specific effectors suggests that host adaptation of R. commune aims at extending the biotrophic stage at the expense of the necrotrophic stage of pathogenesis. Like other apoplastic fungi Rhynchosporium colonizes the intercellular matrix of host leaves relatively slowly without causing symptoms, reminiscent of the development of endophytic fungi. Rhynchosporium may therefore become an object for studying the mutualism-parasitism transition.

Printed publications

Küster, N., Rosahl, S. & Dräger, B. Potato plants with genetically engineered tropane alkaloid precursors Planta (2016) DOI: 10.1007/s00425-016-2610-7

Solanum tuberosumtropinone reductase I reduced tropinone in vivo. Suppression of tropinone reductase II strongly reduced calystegines in sprouts. Overexpression of putrescineN-methyltransferase did not alter calystegine accumulation.

Calystegines are hydroxylated alkaloids formed by the tropane alkaloid pathway. They accumulate in potato (Solanum tuberosum L., Solanaceae) roots and sprouting tubers. Calystegines inhibit various glycosidases in vitro due to their sugar-mimic structure, but functions of calystegines in plants are not understood. Enzymes participating in or competing with calystegine biosynthesis, including putrescine N-methyltransferase (PMT) and tropinone reductases (TRI and TRII), were altered in their activity in potato plants by RNA interference (RNAi) and by overexpression. The genetically altered potato plants were investigated for the accumulation of calystegines and for intermediates of their biosynthesis. An increase in N-methylputrescine provided by DsPMT expression was not sufficient to increase calystegine accumulation. Overexpression and gene knockdown of StTRI proved that S. tuberosum TRI is a functional tropinone reductase in vivo, but no influence on calystegine accumulation was observed. When StTRII expression was suppressed by RNAi, calystegine formation was severely compromised in the transformed plants. Under phytochamber and green house conditions, the StTRII RNAi plants did not show phenotypic alterations. Further investigation of calystegines function in potato plants under natural conditions is enabled by the calystegine deprived StTRII RNAi plants.


Brömme, T., Schmitz,C., Moszner, N., Burtscher, P., Strehmel, N. & Strehmel, B. Photochemical Oxidation of NIR Photosensitizers in the Presence of Radical Initiators and Their Prospective Use in Dental Applications ChemistrySelect 1, 524–532, (2016) DOI: 10.1002/slct.201600048

Photochemical oxidation of near infrared (NIR) photosensitizers in the presence of diaryl iodonium salts bearing either bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide or hexafluorophosphate was investigated by exposure with NIR LEDs emitting either at 790 nm, 830 nm, 850 nm or 870 nm. Four different cyanines with barbituryl group at the meso position exhibit similar absorption in the NIR. These photosensitizers initiate in combination with diaryliodonium salts radical photopolymerization of dental composites with the focus to cure large thicknesses. Furthermore, the mixture comprising the cyanine and the iodonium salt was used to generate brown color in dental composites on demand. This required to understand the mechanism of dye decomposition in more detail applying exposure kinetics and a coupling of Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC) with mass spectrometry (MS) to analyze the photoproducts formed. Data showed cleavage of the polymethine chain at typical positions in case of the oxidized species. These were formed as result of electron transfer between the excited state of the photosensitizer and the iodonium salt. UPLC-MS experiments additionally indicated a certain sensitivity of the system upon adding of acids and radicals generated by thermal treatment of azobisisobutyronitrile (AIBN). Thus, treatment of the photoinitiator composition led almost to the same products no matter the system was either exposed with NIR light or treated with acids or radicals generated by thermal decomposition of AIBN. These findings helped to understand the large curing depth of 14 mm upon NIR exposure at 850 nm and the brown color formed.


Strehmel, N., Mönchgesang,S., Herklotz, S., Krüger, S., Ziegler, J. & Scheel, D. Piriformospora indica Stimulates Root Metabolism of Arabidopsis thaliana. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 17, 1091, (2016) DOI: 10.3390/ijms17071091

Piriformospora indica is a root-colonizing fungus, which interacts with a variety of plants including Arabidopsis thaliana. This interaction has been considered as mutualistic leading to growth promotion of the host. So far, only indolic glucosinolates and phytohormones have been identified as key players. In a comprehensive non-targeted metabolite profiling study, we analyzed Arabidopsis thaliana’s roots, root exudates, and leaves of inoculated and non-inoculated plants by ultra performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC/(ESI)-QTOFMS) and gas chromatography/electron ionization quadrupole mass spectrometry (GC/EI-QMS), and identified further biomarkers. Among them, the concentration of nucleosides, dipeptides, oligolignols, and glucosinolate degradation products was affected in the exudates. In the root profiles, nearly all metabolite levels increased upon co-cultivation, like carbohydrates, organic acids, amino acids, glucosinolates, oligolignols, and flavonoids. In the leaf profiles, we detected by far less significant changes. We only observed an increased concentration of organic acids, carbohydrates, ascorbate, glucosinolates and hydroxycinnamic acids, and a decreased concentration of nitrogen-rich amino acids in inoculated plants. These findings contribute to the understanding of symbiotic interactions between plant roots and fungi of the order of Sebacinales and are a valid source for follow-up mechanistic studies, because these symbioses are particular and clearly different from interactions of roots with mycorrhizal fungi or dark septate endophytes 

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