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Rothamsted Research is one of eight institutes sponsored by the biotechnology and biological sciences research council












MeT-RO :

A major initiative to establish the UK Centre for Plant and Microbial Metabolomic Analysis









MeT-RO (Metabolomics at Rothamsted) is the result of a major BBSRC initiative to establish a critical mass of resources that can be applied to plant and microbial metabolomics. The project is co-ordinated by the National Centre for Plant and Microbial Metabolomics at Rothamsted Research, and includes important partnerships in bioinformatics and advanced computational techniques with the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and in FT-ICR-MS application to plant samples with UMIST.



Principal investigators:- 


Rothamsted Research – Prof Mike Beale, Dr Jane Ward and Mr Paul Verrier

Aberystwyth University – Prof John Draper, Mr Nigel Hardy, Dr Ian Scott, Mr Jem Rowland and Prof Ross King

UMIST – Prof Doug Kell, Prof Simon Gaskell and Dr Roy Goodacre


Aims of MeT-RO


Under the BBSRC MeT-RO funding, the Centre aims to develop and operate a high-throughput primary and secondary metabolite fingerprinting service and training centre to support UK research in a wide range of plant and microbial projects. By providing single-site large-scale analytical data collection and new tools for precision metabolite and gene annotation the activities of the MeT-RO will increase greatly the utility of current post-genomics resources. 



Proposed Activities of MeT-RO


The initial activities of MeT-RO will be to develop methods and establish a cost-recovery service for the high-throughput acquisition of accurate analytical data from biological material, grown in controlled and statistically valid experimental conditions. Construction and maintenance of a user-accessible web resource which contains, at its core a database of project-specific spectral and phenotypic data and cumulative libraries of plant and microbial metabolite spectra will be a priority  




The division of labour in MeT-RO is as follows:- Project co-ordination, service sample preparation and analytical data collection will be carried in the National Centre for Plant and Microbial Metabolomics at Rothamsted. Data from will be transferred to Aberystwyth University, where ArMet, a metabolomics relational database, is under construction. Advanced machine learning and other computational techniques, will be applied, by MeT-RO staff at Aberystwyth and UMIST, to further mine the datasets and relate profiles to the functioning of the biochemical network. In addition, research access to FT-ICR-MS will be provided by UMIST.



MeT-RO analytical chemistry activities



The core of the MeT-RO facility will be a new hyphenated 600MHz NMR-MS spectrometer configured to collect  "fingerprint" data from crude extracts and to provide structural data on purified samples. It is envisaged that for high-throughput screens the new spectrometerwill be used without prior fractionation to generate 1D and 2D 1H NMR and ESI/APCI MS  fingerprints that will be databased, interpreted and clustered using multivariate and machine learning techniques. High throughput screening with chromatography will also be carried out by linking pre-fractionation by SPE to isolate compounds into broad classes (eg bases, acids, polar, non-polar), followed by NMR and MS patterning as above. HPLC-NMR-MS will also be available on samples selected`from the high throughput screens. MeT-RO will also carry out ‘traditional’ GC-MS and LC-MS metabolomics, and additional direct infusion MS is available on ion trap, Q-TOF and, in UMIST, on FT-ICR-MS instruments.

The analytical data will be curated and mined via the MeT-RO facilities in bioinformatics. Data will be transferred from the Rothamsted databases to the ArMet metabolomic database  at Aberystwyth University. Further development of data models and the construction and refinement of the database will expand ArMet into a public metabolomic resource. Together with the UMIST team, advanced data analysis methods will be applied to further mine the metabolomic data



Access to MeT-RO and cost recovery


MeT-RO has received significant funding from BBSRC for capital equipment and staff to set up and establish screening regimes. Access to the service is open to all research groups seeking metabolomic analysis or training in the plant and microbial areas. The project will operate on a cost-recovery basis from the outset. Costs will include staff time, consumables, charges for CE plant growth and instrument time. Publically funded researchers will have priority and data will be placed in the public domain after a reasonable time to allow submitters to prepare publications or register their IP. Industrial users will be charged at the full economic rate, and data will not be released into the public domain. There will be a BBSRC steering committee guiding the work of MeT-RO, but decisions on job feasibilty and prioritisation will be taken by the management team.


What Type Of Projects Will MeT-RO  Undertake?


MeT-RO will carry out large and small-scale metabolomic analyses of any plant or microbial material. Members of the research community can commission work via direct user-pays analytical and/or data mining services and training. Small Arabidopsis projects that are more targeted are best suited`to the GARNet service. GARNet and MeT-RO will use a common costing regime for this type of work. However, we envisage that MeT-RO will be involved in more substantial projects and we are especially interested in developing collaborative research grant applications. In this scenario relevant MeT-RO staff will be co-applicants and MeT-RO costings will be included in the application.


Examples of collaborative larger scale projects may include:-

             Screening of gene knockout collections of microbes and plants

             Screening of collections of unselected transposon-tagged and other deletion mutants

             QTL screening of natural variants and their crosses

 Analysis of material from field trials



Training Activities


The centre will also operate as a training facility for metabolomics. Web-based resources will be developed to include tutorials and other information. Workshops for interested scientists on different aspects of metabolomics will be organised. Scientists from other laboratories will be able to spend time at Rothamsted, Aberystwyth or UMIST to be trained in all aspects from sample preparation through to data collection to bioinformatic analysis. These activities will be costed in-line with the relevant institution existing regimes for visiting workers.



Enquiries for MeT-RO services including training should be made via the web application form. Informal enquiries can be made by email to Centre Manager (