March 13, 2024
Journal Article

Spatiotemporal Metabolic Responses to Water Deficit Stress in Distinct Leaf Cell-types of Poplar


The impact of water-deficit (WD) stress on plant metabolism has been predominantly studied at the whole tissue level. However, plant tissues are made of several distinct cell types with unique and differentiated functions, which limits whole tissue ‘omics’-based studies to determine only an averaged molecular signature arising from multiple cell types. Advancements in spatial omics technologies provide an opportunity to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying plant responses to WD stress at distinct cell-type levels. Here, we studied the spatiotemporal metabolic responses of two poplar leaf cell types -palisade and vascular cells- to WD stress using matrix-assisted laser desorption Ionization-mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI). We identified unique WD stress-mediated metabolic shifts in each leaf cell type when exposed to early and prolonged WD and recovery from stress. During stress, flavonoids and phenolic metabolites were exclusively accumulated in leaf palisade cells. However, vascular cells mainly accumulated sugars during stress and fatty acids during recovery conditions, highlighting a possibility of interconversion between sugars and fatty acids under stress and recovery conditions in vascular cells. By comparing our MALDI-MSI metabolic data with whole leaf tissue gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS)-based metabolic profile, we identified only a few metabolites that showed a similar accumulation trend at both cell-type and whole leaf tissue levels. Overall, this work highlights the potential of the MSI approach to complement the whole tissue-based metabolomics techniques and provides a novel spatiotemporal understanding of plant metabolic responses to WD stress. This will help engineer specific metabolic pathways at a cellular level in strategic perennial trees like poplars to help withstand future aberrations in environmental conditions and to increase bioenergy sustainability.

Published: March 13, 2024


Balasubramanian V., D. Velickovic, M. Del Mar Rubio Wilhelmi, C.R. Anderton, N.C. Stewart, S. DiFazio, and E. Blumwald, et al. 2024. Spatiotemporal Metabolic Responses to Water Deficit Stress in Distinct Leaf Cell-types of Poplar. Frontiers in Plant Science 15. PNNL-SA-193284. doi:10.3389/fpls.2024.1346853