Skip to main content


Metabolomics is the science of determining the metabolome of a biological sample. The metabolome is the collection of low molecular weight organic molecules associated with a biological sample, which are not direct products of genetic information (as defined by the central dogma). These organic molecules directly interact with macromolecules (usually enzymes), which themselves are products of genetic information, and these interactions may or may not lead to chemical transformations.


Why determine the metabolome? The metabolome of a biological sample is a “snap-shot” of that samples metabolic status. This snap-shot integrates the historical effects of the combined genetic and environmental influences on the metabolism of that sample. Therefore by comparing the metabolomes of pairs of samples one is able to gain insights to the genetic, environmental and developmental modulators that distinguish the two samples.


As part of two consortia the Nikolau group has developed metabolomics as a functional genomics tool for the unambiguous annotation of gene functions. The Arabidopsis Metabolomics Consortium (Plant Metabolomics and Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology - PMR) has established metabolomic platforms that detect approximately 1,800 metabolites, of which 900 are chemically defined. The Consortium has applied these metabolomic platforms to the analysis of Arabidopsis T-DNA mutant stocks in genes whose functions are currently ambiguously annotated. These data will be integrated with data concerning protein function, transcription and other studies to generate hypotheses concerning the functions of the targeted genes.


The second consortium, Gene_2_Function is taking a similar strategy but focused on the methanogenic Archaea, Methanosarcina acetivorans. This organism has the largest genome of any Archaea (5.8 Mb) with 4524 predicted coding sequences and is one of the most metabolically diverse Archaea. Given the importance of methanogens in global carbon flow and as a potential source of energy, a complete understanding of gene function in these organisms is essential.


Current researchers:

Libuse Brachova, associate scientist and lab manager

Elizabeth Chatt, PhD student, Plant Biology

Sara Hazinia, PhD student, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

Lisa Vaknin, lab assistant


Past researchers:

Alexis Campbell, associate scientist

Stephanie Moon, assistant scientist

Jennifer Robinson, MS student, Biochemistry

Lucas Showman, postdoctoral research associate

Xin Guan, postdoctoral research associate


Funding Organization: National Science FoundationU. S. Department of Energy