Mass Spectrometry and Metabolomics in Chemical Ecology

A. Daniel Jones

Professor

215A BCH

517-432-7126


Prof.Director, Mass Spec /Metabolomics Core



Primary Research Area

Analytical (An)

Other Area(s) of Interest

Biological (Bi)

Research

(Research Description PDF)

LC/MS chromatogram showing acylsugar, flavonoid, and terpenoid metabolites from the wild tomato S. habrochaites LA1777.
LC/MS chromatogram showing acylsugar, flavonoid, and terpenoid metabolites from the wild tomato S. habrochaites LA1777.

Global profiling of metabolites, the small molecules produced by living things, provides one of the most powerful strategies for learning about gene and protein functions. This approach, known as metabolomics, is generating information that will serve as the foundation for engineering of plants and microbes to produce renewable feedstocks for high-value bioactive chemicals and biofuels. Metabolite profiles also are important indicators of health and disease, and many metabolites regulate physiological states ranging from inflammation to resolution of tissue damage.

HMBC NMR spectrum of a Petunia acylsugar metabolite revealing sites of attachment of specific acyl groups.
HMBC NMR spectrum of a Petunia acylsugar metabolite revealing sites of attachment of specific acyl groups.

Research in the Jones laboratory is driven by a desire to understand how genetics and environment combine to influence biology by: (1) developing analytical and biochemical tools for deep profiling and spatial localization of specialized metabolites, (2) developing experimental and data mining approaches to accelerate discoveries of natural products in plants and the genes involved in their accumulation, (3) deploying mass spectrometry measurements of human exposures to nutrients, toxins, and endogenous metabolites that drive epigenetic regulation of factors that influence disease, and (4) measuring small molecule biomarkers whose levels reflect the effectiveness of disease treatments.

Many plants accumulate large quantities of bioactive phytochemicals and are prolific biochemical factories. Our laboratory pioneered rapid metabolite profiling protocols based on ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) coupled to highresolution time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MS). By employing rapid gradients and by multiplexing ion collision energies, > 2000 metabolites are measured per sample. This allows for largescale screening of genetic variants to guide gene function discoveries. Ongoing research involves labeling metabolites using 13C to investigate metabolic dynamics coupled with elucidation of metabolite structures using high resolution MS/MS and 2-D NMR.

Isle of Wight cohort - metabolite profiles of pregnant women and comparisions to profiles of their grandchildren.
Isle of Wight cohort - metabolite profiles of pregnant women and comparisions to profiles of their grandchildren.

We also investigate whether metabolite biomarkers in the blood and urine of human subjects indicate mechanisms underlying relationships between human exposures (including diet) and epigenetic factors that influence allergy and asthma in subsequent generations. To this end our lab is adapting our analytical methods to investigate the exposome, which is the entire range of molecules (e.g. foods, environment, gut microbes, and endogenous metabolites) to which individuals are exposed. For example, the figure below shows a map of thousands of substances detected by LC/MS in blood collected from a woman during pregnancy.

Selected Publications

Assessment of exposures to acetamide in milk, beef, and coffee using xanthydrol derivatization and gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry, R. Vismeh, D. Haddad, J. Moore, C. Nielson, B. Bals, T. Campbell, A. Julian, F. Teymouri, A. D. Jones, and V. Bringi, J. Agric. Food Chem. 2018, 66: 298-305.

Evolution of a flipped pathway creates metabolic innovation in tomato trichomes through BAHD enzyme promiscuity, P. X. Fan, A. M. Miller, X. X. Liu, A. D. Jones, and R. L. Last, Nature Communications 2017, 8, 2080.

Evolutionary roots to biochemical innovation revealed by integrative analysis of a plant defense-related specialized metabolic pathway, G. Moghe, B. J. Leong, S. Hurney, A. D. Jones, and R. L. Last, eLife 2017, 6, e28468.

Profiling, isolation and structure elucidation of specialized acylsucrose metabolites accumulating in trichomes of Petunia species, X. X. Liu, M. Enright, C. S. Barry, and A. D. Jones, Metabolomics 2017, 13, 85.

In vitro reconstruction and analysis of evolutionary variation of the tomato acylsucrose metabolic network, P. X. Fan, A. M. Miller, A. L. Schilmiller, X. X. Liu, I. Ofner, A. D. Jones, D. Zamir, and R. L. Last, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2016, 113, E239-E248.

CV

B.S., 1976, Harvey Mudd College

Ph.D., 1984,The Pennsylvania State Univ.

Director, 1984-1998, Facility for Advanced Instrumentation, Univ. of California, Davis

Senior Scientist, 1998-2005, Dept. of Chemistry, The Pennsylvania State Univ.

Awards/Honors

2012 CNS Distinguished Faculty Award