Plant metabolomics: from holistic hope, to hype, to hot topic


  • Robert D. Hall

    1. Plant Research International, Business Unit Bioscience, PO Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands; Centre for BioSystems Genomics, PO Box 98, 6700 AB Wageningen, the Netherlands
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Author for correspondence: Robert D. Hall Tel: +31 317477230 Fax: +31 317418094 Email:



  • Summary 453

  • I. Introducing plant metabolomics 453
  • II. The technologies for data acquisition 455
  • III. Mind the gap: data analysis, bioinformatics and statistics 458
  • IV. Potential and limitations 461
  • V. Applications 462
  • VI. Data integration, metabolic networks and systems biology 464
  • VII. Where do we go from here? Bright prospects for the future  465
  • Acknowledgements 465

  • References 465


In a short time, plant metabolomics has gone from being just an ambitious concept to being a rapidly growing, valuable technology applied in the stride to gain a more global picture of the molecular organization of multicellular organisms. The combination of improved analytical capabilities with newly designed, dedicated statistical, bioinformatics and data mining strategies, is beginning to broaden the horizons of our understanding of how plants are organized and how metabolism is both controlled but highly flexible. Metabolomics is predicted to play a significant, if not indispensable role in bridging the phenotype–genotype gap and thus in assisting us in our desire for full genome sequence annotation as part of the quest to link gene to function. Plants are a fabulously rich source of diverse functional biochemicals and metabolomics is also already proving valuable in an applied context. By creating unique opportunities for us to interrogate plant systems and characterize their biochemical composition, metabolomics will greatly assist in identifying and defining much of the still unexploited biodiversity available today.