Metabolomics is the science and technology of the measurement, identification, and quantification of metabolites in living systems. Metabolites are sensitive to genetics and the environment, and they are closely related to behavioral phenotypes. In a systems biology analysis, metabolomics can provide important data that can improve the understanding and interpretation of other omics such as genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics.
There are many components of a metabolomics study, including study design, sample collection and preparation, analytical measurements, statistical analysis and data reduction, compound identification, data integration, and pathway mapping. As a result, the required skills in metabolomics studies include statistics, chemistry, biochemistry, computer science, genetics, and more. Clearly, most people don’t have all of these areas of expertise, so metabolomics is a team effort. One of the great challenges in any interdisciplinary science such as metabolomics is to develop a common language and appreciation for disciplines outside of a person’s specific training and education.
The Edison lab is highly collaborative and works with people with expertise in all of the areas necessary for systems biology. Students and postdocs in the Edison lab have different backgrounds, and one of the ongoing themes is to learn as much as possible about all aspects of metabolomics and systems biology. The major new project in systems biology at UGA will be mapping the C. elegans metabolome to its genome. We are taking several strategies in this area and are developing new technologies for high-throughput approaches to allow us to prepare and analyze hundreds or thousands of samples.
We have recently published an open access review paper that describes different approaches and strategies to chemical ecology studies.
The Edison lab moved into metabolomics through studies in C. elegans, where it became apparent that we needed to understand the metabolic pathways of the worm to fully understand its chemical ecology. Dr. Edison was the founding PI and Director of the Southeast Center for Integrated Metabolomics (SECIM), one of 6 comprehensive metabolomics centers funded by the NIH Common Fund to deliver metabolomics services to users. SECIM has cores for both untargeted and targeted LC-MS, NMR, advanced MS, and bioinformatics. In addition, SECIM has annual workshops to train new users in metabolomics. The Edison lab at UGA will continue to work closely with SECIM and conduct NMR metabolomics measurements. The video at the bottom of this page won a video contest celebrating the 10th anniversary of the NIH Common Fund and was featured on the NIH Director’s blog.