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Printed publications

Peters, K., Gorzolka, K., Bruelheide, H. & Neumann, S. Seasonal variation of secondary metabolites in nine different bryophytes Ecol Evol (2018) DOI: 10.1002/ece3.4361

Bryophytes occur in almost all land ecosystems and contribute to global biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem functioning, and influence vegetation dynamics. As growth and biochemistry of bryophytes are strongly dependent on the season, we analyzed metabolic variation across seasons with regard to ecological characteristics and phylogeny. Using bioinformatics methods, we present an integrative and reproducible approach to connect ecology with biochemistry. Nine different bryophyte species were collected in three composite samples in four seasons. Untargeted liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC/MS) was performed to obtain metabolite profiles. Redundancy analysis, Pearson's correlation, Shannon diversity, and hierarchical clustering were used to determine relationships among species, seasons, ecological characteristics, and hierarchical clustering. Metabolite profiles of Marchantia polymorpha and Fissidens taxifolius which are species with ruderal life strategy (R‐selected) showed low seasonal variability, while the profiles of the pleurocarpous mosses and Grimmia pulvinata which have characteristics of a competitive strategy (C‐selected) were more variable. Polytrichum strictum and Plagiomnium undulatum had intermediary life strategies. Our study revealed strong species‐specific differences in metabolite profiles between the seasons. Life strategies, growth forms, and indicator values for light and soil were among the most important ecological predictors. We demonstrate that untargeted Eco‐Metabolomics provide useful biochemical insight that improves our understanding of fundamental ecological strategies.
Printed publications

Khoonsari, P. E., Moreno, P., Bergmann, S., Burman, J., Capuccini, M., Carone, M., Cascante, M., de Atauri, P., Foguet, C., Gonzalez-Beltran, A., Hankemeier, T., Haug, K., He, S., Herman, S., Johnson, D., Kale, N., Larsson, A., Neumann, S., Peters, K., Pireddu, L., Rocca-Serra, P., Roger, P., Rueedi, R., Ruttkies, C., Sadawi, N., Salek, R. M., Sansone, S.-A., Schober, D., Selivanov, V., Thévenot, E. A., van Vliet, M., Zanetti, G., Steinbeck, C., Kultima, K. & Spjuth, O. Interoperable and scalable data analysis with microservices: Applications in Metabolomics BioRxiv (2018) DOI: 10.1101/213603

Developing a robust and performant data analysis workflow that integrates all necessary components whilst still being able to scale over multiple compute nodes is a challenging task. We introduce a generic method based on the microservice architecture, where software tools are encapsulated as Docker containers that can be connected into scientific workflows and executed in parallel using the Kubernetes container orchestrator. The access point is a virtual research environment which can be launched on-demand on cloud resources and desktop computers. IT-expertise requirements on the user side are kept to a minimum, and established workflows can be re-used effortlessly by any novice user. We validate our method in the field of metabolomics on two mass spectrometry studies, one nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy study and one fluxomics study, showing that the method scales dynamically with increasing availability of computational resources. We achieved a complete integration of the major software suites resulting in the first turn-key workflow encompassing all steps for mass-spectrometry-based metabolomics including preprocessing, multivariate statistics, and metabolite identification. Microservices is a generic methodology that can serve any scientific discipline and opens up for new types of large-scale integrative science.
Publications

Schober, D., Jacob, D., Wilson, M., Cruz, J. A., Marcu, A., Grant, J. R., Moing, A., Deborde, C., de Figueiredo, L. F., Haug, K., Rocca-Serra, P., Easton, J., Ebbels, T. M. D., Hao, J., Ludwig, C., Günther, U. L., Rosato, A., Klein, M. S., Lewis, I. A., Luchinat, C., Jones, A. R., Grauslys, A., Larralde, M., Yokochi, M., Kobayashi, N., Porzel, A., Griffin, J. L., Viant, M. R., Wishart, D. S., Steinbeck, C., Salek, R. M. & Neumann, S. nmrML: A Community Supported Open Data Standard for the Description, Storage, and Exchange of NMR Data Anal Chem 90, 649–656, (2018) DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b02795

NMR is a widely used analytical technique with a growing number of repositories available. As a result, demands for a vendor-agnostic, open data format for long-term archiving of NMR data have emerged with the aim to ease and encourage sharing, comparison, and reuse of NMR data. Here we present nmrML, an open XML-based exchange and storage format for NMR spectral data. The nmrML format is intended to be fully compatible with existing NMR data for chemical, biochemical, and metabolomics experiments. nmrML can capture raw NMR data, spectral data acquisition parameters, and where available spectral metadata, such as chemical structures associated with spectral assignments. The nmrML format is compatible with pure-compound NMR data for reference spectral libraries as well as NMR data from complex biomixtures, i.e., metabolomics experiments. To facilitate format conversions, we provide nmrML converters for Bruker, JEOL and Agilent/Varian vendor formats. In addition, easy-to-use Web-based spectral viewing, processing, and spectral assignment tools that read and write nmrML have been developed. Software libraries and Web services for data validation are available for tool developers and end-users. The nmrML format has already been adopted for capturing and disseminating NMR data for small molecules by several open source data processing tools and metabolomics reference spectral libraries, e.g., serving as storage format for the MetaboLights data repository. The nmrML open access data standard has been endorsed by the Metabolomics Standards Initiative (MSI), and we here encourage user participation and feedback to increase usability and make it a successful standard.
Publications

Peters, K., Worrich, A., Weinhold, A., Alka, O., Balcke, G., Birkemeyer, C., Bruelheide, H., Calf, O. W., Dietz, S., Dührkop, K., Gaquerel, E., Heinig, U., Kücklich, M., Macel, M., Müller, C., Poeschl, Y., Pohnert, G., Ristok, C., Rodríguez, V. M., Ruttkies, C., Schuman, M., Schweiger, R., Shahaf, N., Steinbeck, C., Tortosa, M., Treutler, H., Ueberschaar, N., Velasco, P., Weiß, B. M., Widdig, A., Neumann, S. & van Dam, N. M. Current Challenges in Plant Eco-Metabolomics Int J Mol Sci 19, 1385, (2018) DOI: 10.3390/ijms19051385

The relatively new research discipline of Eco-Metabolomics is the application of metabolomics techniques to ecology with the aim to characterise biochemical interactions of organisms across different spatial and temporal scales. Metabolomics is an untargeted biochemical approach to measure many thousands of metabolites in different species, including plants and animals. Changes in metabolite concentrations can provide mechanistic evidence for biochemical processes that are relevant at ecological scales. These include physiological, phenotypic and morphological responses of plants and communities to environmental changes and also interactions with other organisms. Traditionally, research in biochemistry and ecology comes from two different directions and is performed at distinct spatiotemporal scales. Biochemical studies most often focus on intrinsic processes in individuals at physiological and cellular scales. Generally, they take a bottom-up approach scaling up cellular processes from spatiotemporally fine to coarser scales. Ecological studies usually focus on extrinsic processes acting upon organisms at population and community scales and typically study top-down and bottom-up processes in combination. Eco-Metabolomics is a transdisciplinary research discipline that links biochemistry and ecology and connects the distinct spatiotemporal scales. In this review, we focus on approaches to study chemical and biochemical interactions of plants at various ecological levels, mainly plant–organismal interactions, and discuss related examples from other domains. We present recent developments and highlight advancements in Eco-Metabolomics over the last decade from various angles. We further address the five key challenges: (1) complex experimental designs and large variation of metabolite profiles; (2) feature extraction; (3) metabolite identification; (4) statistical analyses; and (5) bioinformatics software tools and workflows. The presented solutions to these challenges will advance connecting the distinct spatiotemporal scales and bridging biochemistry and ecology
Publications

Döll, S., Kuhlmann, M., Rutten, T., Mette, M. F., Scharfenberg, S., Petridis, A., Berreth, D.-C. & Mock, H.-P. Accumulation of the coumarin scopolin under abiotic stress conditions is mediated by the Arabidopsis thaliana THO/TREX complex Plant J 93, 431-444, (2018) DOI: 10.1111/tpj.13797

Secondary metabolites are involved in the plant stress response. Among these are scopolin and its active form scopoletin, which are coumarin derivatives associated with reactive oxygen species scavenging and pathogen defence. Here we show that scopolin accumulation can be induced in the root by osmotic stress and in the leaf by low‐temperature stress in Arabidopsis thaliana. A genetic screen for altered scopolin levels in A. thaliana revealed a mutant compromised in scopolin accumulation in response to stress; the lesion was present in a homologue of THO1 coding for a subunit of the THO/TREX complex. The THO/TREX complex contributes to RNA silencing, supposedly by trafficking precursors of small RNAs. Mutants defective in THO, AGO1, SDS3 and RDR6 were impaired with respect to scopolin accumulation in response to stress, suggesting a mechanism based on RNA silencing such as the trans‐acting small interfering RNA pathway, which requires THO/TREX function.
Publications

Schymanski, E. L., Ruttkies, C., Krauss, M., Brouard, C., Kind, T., Dührkop, K., Allen, F., Vaniya, A., Verdegem, D., Böcker, S., Rousu, J., Shen, H., Tsugawa, H., Sajed, T., Fiehn, O., Ghesquière, B. & Neumann, S. Critical Assessment of Small Molecule Identification 2016: automated methods J Cheminformatics 9, 22, (2017) DOI: 10.1186/s13321-017-0207-1

Background
The fourth round of the Critical Assessment of Small Molecule Identification (CASMI) Contest (www.casmi-contest.org) was held in 2016, with two new categories for automated methods. This article covers the 208 challenges in Categories 2 and 3, without and with metadata, from organization, participation, results and post-contest evaluation of CASMI 2016 through to perspectives for future contests and small molecule annotation/identification.

Results
The Input Output Kernel Regression (CSI:IOKR) machine learning approach performed best in “Category 2: Best Automatic Structural Identification—In Silico Fragmentation Only”, won by Team Brouard with 41% challenge wins. The winner of “Category 3: Best Automatic Structural Identification—Full Information” was Team Kind (MS-FINDER), with 76% challenge wins. The best methods were able to achieve over 30% Top 1 ranks in Category 2, with all methods ranking the correct candidate in the Top 10 in around 50% of challenges. This success rate rose to 70% Top 1 ranks in Category 3, with candidates in the Top 10 in over 80% of the challenges. The machine learning and chemistry-based approaches are shown to perform in complementary ways.

Conclusions
The improvement in (semi-)automated fragmentation methods for small molecule identification has been substantial. The achieved high rates of correct candidates in the Top 1 and Top 10, despite large candidate numbers, open up great possibilities for high-throughput annotation of untargeted analysis for “known unknowns”. As more high quality training data becomes available, the improvements in machine learning methods will likely continue, but the alternative approaches still provide valuable complementary information. Improved integration of experimental context will also improve identification success further for “real life” annotations. The true “unknown unknowns” remain to be evaluated in future CASMI contests.
Publications

Meier, R., Ruttkies, C., Treutler, H. & Neumann, S. Bioinformatics can boost metabolomics research J Biotechnol 261, 137-141, (2017) DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2017.05.018

Metabolomics is the modern term for the field of small molecule research in biology and biochemistry. Currently, metabolomics is undergoing a transition where the classic analytical chemistry is combined with modern cheminformatics and bioinformatics methods, paving the way for large-scale data analysis. We give some background on past developments, highlight current state-of-the-art approaches, and give a perspective on future requirements.
Publications

Al Shweiki, M. H. D. R., Mönchgesang, S., Majovsky, P., Thieme, D., Trutschel, D. & Hoehenwarter, W. Assessment of Label-Free Quantification in Discovery Proteomics and Impact of Technological Factors and Natural Variability of Protein Abundance J Proteome Res 16, 1410–1424, (2017) DOI: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00645

We evaluated the state of label-free discovery proteomics focusing especially on technological contributions and contributions of naturally occurring differences in protein abundance to the intersample variability in protein abundance estimates in this highly peptide-centric technology. First, the performance of popular quantitative proteomics software, Proteome Discoverer, Scaffold, MaxQuant, and Progenesis QIP, was benchmarked using their default parameters and some modified settings. Beyond this, the intersample variability in protein abundance estimates was decomposed into variability introduced by the entire technology itself and variable protein amounts inherent to individual plants of the Arabidopsis thaliana Col-0 accession. The technical component was considerably higher than the biological intersample variability, suggesting an effect on the degree and validity of reported biological changes in protein abundance. Surprisingly, the biological variability, protein abundance estimates, and protein fold changes were recorded differently by the software used to quantify the proteins, warranting caution in the comparison of discovery proteomics results. As expected, ∼99% of the proteome was invariant in the isogenic plants in the absence of environmental factors; however, few proteins showed substantial quantitative variability. This naturally occurring variation between individual organisms can have an impact on the causality of reported protein fold changes.

Publications

Witting, M., Ruttkies, C., Neumann, S. & Schmitt-Kopplin, P. LipidFrag: Improving reliability of in silico fragmentation of lipids and application to the Caenorhabditis elegans lipidome.  PLoS ONE 12, e0172311, (2017) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172311

Lipid identification is a major bottleneck in high-throughput lipidomics studies. However, tools for the analysis of lipid tandem MS spectra are rather limited. While the comparison against spectra in reference libraries is one of the preferred methods, these libraries are far from being complete. In order to improve identification rates, the in silico fragmentation tool MetFrag was combined with Lipid Maps and lipid-class specific classifiers which calculate probabilities for lipid class assignments. The resulting LipidFrag workflow was trained and evaluated on different commercially available lipid standard materials, measured with data dependent UPLC-Q-ToF-MS/MS acquisition. The automatic analysis was compared against manual MS/MS spectra interpretation. With the lipid class specific models, identification of the true positives was improved especially for cases where candidate lipids from different lipid classes had similar MetFrag scores by removing up to 56% of false positive results. This LipidFrag approach was then applied to MS/MS spectra of lipid extracts of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Fragments explained by LipidFrag match known fragmentation pathways, e.g., neutral losses of lipid headgroups and fatty acid side chain fragments. Based on prediction models trained on standard lipid materials, high probabilities for correct annotations were achieved, which makes LipidFrag a good choice for automated lipid data analysis and reliability testing of lipid identifications.
Publications

Mönchgesang, S., Strehmel, N., Schmidt, S., Westphal, L., Taruttis, F., Müller, E., Herklotz, S., Neumann, S. & Scheel, D. Natural variation of roots exudates in Arabidopsis thaliana - linking metabolomic and genomic data. Sci Rep 6, 29033 , (2016) DOI: 10.1038/srep29033

Many metabolomics studies focus on aboveground parts of the plant, while metabolism within roots and the chemical composition of the rhizosphere, as influenced by exudation, are not deeply investigated. In this study, we analysed exudate metabolic patterns of Arabidopsis thaliana and their variation in genetically diverse accessions. For this project, we used the 19 parental accessions of the Arabidopsis MAGIC collection. Plants were grown in a hydroponic system, their exudates were harvested before bolting and subjected to UPLC/ESI-QTOF-MS analysis. Metabolite profiles were analysed together with the genome sequence information. Our study uncovered distinct metabolite profiles for root exudates of the 19 accessions. Hierarchical clustering revealed similarities in the exudate metabolite profiles, which were partly reflected by the genetic distances. An association of metabolite absence with nonsense mutations was detected for the biosynthetic pathways of an indolic glucosinolate hydrolysis product, a hydroxycinnamic acid amine and a flavonoid triglycoside. Consequently, a direct link between metabolic phenotype and genotype was detected without using segregating populations. Moreover, genomics can help to identify biosynthetic enzymes in metabolomics experiments. Our study elucidates the chemical composition of the rhizosphere and its natural variation in A. thaliana, which is important for the attraction and shaping of microbial communities.

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