Elucidating Drought-Tolerance Mechanisms in Plant Roots through 1H NMR Metabolomics in Parallel with MALDI-MS, and NanoSIMS Imaging Techniques

Linnea K. Honeker, Gina A. Hildebrand, Jane D. Fudyma, L. Erik Daber, David Hoyt, Sarah E. Flowers, Juliana Gil-Loaiza, Angelika Kübert, Ines Bamberger, Christopher R. Anderton, John Cliff, Sarah Leichty, Roya AminiTabrizi, Jürgen Kreuzwieser, Lingling Shi, Xuejuan Bai, Dusan Velickovic, Michaela A. Dippold, S. Nemiah Ladd, Christiane WernerLaura K. Meredith, Malak M. Tfaily

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


As direct mediators between plants and soil, roots play an important role in metabolic responses to environmental stresses such as drought, yet these responses are vastly uncharacterized on a plant-specific level, especially for co-occurring species. Here, we aim to examine the effects of drought on root metabolic profiles and carbon allocation pathways of three tropical rainforest species by combining cutting-edge metabolomic and imaging technologies in an in situ position-specific 13C-pyruvate root-labeling experiment. Further, washed (rhizosphere-depleted) and unwashed roots were examined to test the impact of microbial presence on root metabolic pathways. Drought had a species-specific impact on the metabolic profiles and spatial distribution in Piper sp. and Hibiscus rosa sinensis roots, signifying different defense mechanisms; Piper sp. enhanced root structural defense via recalcitrant compounds including lignin, while H. rosa sinensis enhanced biochemical defense via secretion of antioxidants and fatty acids. In contrast, Clitoria fairchildiana, a legume tree, was not influenced as much by drought but rather by rhizosphere presence where carbohydrate storage was enhanced, indicating a close association with symbiotic microbes. This study demonstrates how multiple techniques can be combined to identify how plants cope with drought through different drought-tolerance strategies and the consequences of such changes on below-ground organic matter composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2021-2032
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • abiotic plant stress
  • carbon cycle
  • drought
  • position-specific pyruvate labeling
  • tropical rainforest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Elucidating Drought-Tolerance Mechanisms in Plant Roots through 1H NMR Metabolomics in Parallel with MALDI-MS, and NanoSIMS Imaging Techniques'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this