The relatively new field of “metabolomics” is the study of the network of metabolic compounds in living organisms that make up an organism’s “metabolome”. The metabolome is reflective of the health of the organism or how it may be responding to injury or stress. The metabolome changes over time as the organism follows its life-cycle or responds to challenges in the environment, and information about these changes can lead to an understanding of the effects on individuals and populations.
The metabolome can be assessed in numerous ways, but one of the most promising is nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), a non-destructive, fully quantitative technique. In short, the technique involves rapid, direct spectral evaluation of tissue extracts or biofluids for variations in spectral patterns that relate to different concentrations of molecular species involved in metabolic processes. The correlations observed can be related to metabolic pathways, leading to experimental evidence for the effects of stressors on biological functions. As demonstrated in the literature, the responses are often specific to the stressor applied so that we are able to-for example-differentiate the mode of action of new chemicals, or demonstrate biological impairment (in a way that correlates with other classical biological indices).
There are several distinct advantages of NMR-based metabonomics as a research tool. (1) There are hundreds of observable endpoints, all obtained simultaneously. (2) For matrices such as blood, urine, or hemolymph, which can be non-destructively collected, individual organisms can be monitored over time as the stressors change. (3) Since not all physiological mechanisms and responses are confined to the genome or proteome, this “third leg” of physiological response becomes important in understanding environmental stressors. (4) The techniques may be adaptable to “high-throughput” measurement so that more comprehensive time and spatial resolution is obtainable.
This research involves demonstrating the efficacy of marine metabolomics, development of robust protocols and standardization of methods, application of these techniques to marine issues, and investigation of human/marine linkages.
Chemistry; Environmental; Marine; Mass spectrometry; Metabolomics; Metabonomics; Modeling; Nuclear magnetic resonance; Toxicology;