Carla Antonio

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Dr. Carla Antonio

Short Biography

Carla Antonio completed her PhD in Chemistry in 2008 at the University York, UK. During her PhD, she developed Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry-based (LC-MS) methods to study the plant primary metabolome using interesting LC column chemistries for highly polar compounds, namely PGC and HILIC, and Arabidopsis thaliana as the model system. After completing her PhD in July 2008, she then moved to Germany to pursue Postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm. Here she was highly trained in MS-based metabolomics to study plant primary metabolite responses to different stress signals; particularly GC-MS metabolite profiling that was pioneered by experts at this institute. Both international experiences are reflected in her ability to autonomously implement MS-based methods in plant metabolomics studies. In August 2013, she was awarded a competitive 5-year Starting grant position/Assistant researcher to establish her independent group in Plant Metabolomics at Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica António Xavier (ITQB NOVA), in Oeiras, Portugal. Since then, her lab is establishing MS-based metabolomics methodologies in Portugal (analytical and bioinformatic) to unravel the metabolic signature of plants under different adverse conditions aiming at identifying novel adaptation and tolerance mechanisms to environmental changes (biotic and abiotic). In her lab, there is also a longstanding interest in the development and validation of LC-MS methods for the sensitive analysis of target plant metabolites, namely low-abundant phosphorylated compounds and phytohormones. To accomplish their goals, they use exclusively highly sensitive MS-based analytical methodologies, followed by bioinformatic tools to produce reliable biological data interpretation.

Expert Opinion

Why did you start using metabolomics in your investigations?

It all started back in 2004, when I started my PhD studies at the University of York (UK). During this period, I worked in the interface between Chemistry and Plant Biology using the model system Arabidopsis thaliana which plant genome had been completely sequenced in 2000 by the Arabidopsis Genome Initiative. Those were exciting times for post-genomic research in Plant Biology with Plant Metabolomics emerging as an important tool to study how environmental perturbations can affect plant metabolic processes. Back then, I was super excited with the so many fast developments in sensitive MS-based analytical platforms to analyse the complex plant metabolome, and I was sure I wanted to continue working in the area of Plant Metabolomics using MS as the analytical platform of choice. And here I am!

What have you been working on recently?

Recently, I started to explore how phytohormones shape plant-pathogen interactions. Phytohormones are central signaling and communication metabolites between an organism and its environment (biotic/abiotic). Salicylic acid and jasmonates are known to play major roles in regulating plant defence responses to biotic stresses, while other hormones like auxins, abscisic acid (ABA), cytokinins and gibberellins are suggested to fine-tune immunity and growth/development in plants. My group is now establishing a new MS-based method to quantify a range of these phytohormones to study the interactions between Pinus spp. and the pathogenic pinewood nematode (PWN), Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. Phytohormone quantification is a powerful tool to understand the role of these key metabolites in the regulation of pine wilt disease (PWD). We are also exploring how plants respond to several abiotic stresses, such as drought, salinity, or heat. Because each one of these individual abiotic stresses often occur in combination with other stresses, we have started to explore how plants respond to abiotic stress combinations, such as combined salt-heat stress.

What are your recommendations for people getting started in plant metabolomics?

I truly recommend that all beginners in the area of Plant Metabolomics read the newest Methods in Molecular Biology: Plant Metabolomics Methods and Protocols by Springer (edited by me!). In this book, beginners in plant metabolomics research will come across the need for standardizing key steps in plant metabolomics studies that is still considered a critical issue in the field. The book unites diverse lab protocols, from sample preparation and extraction of plant primary and secondary metabolites to metabolite analysis, using exclusively highly sensitive MS-based methodologies, followed by frontline bioinformatics and/or mathematical modeling approaches to produce reliable biological data interpretation. It also includes valuable introduction chapters to these topics. Chapters have been written by the teams of pioneering and leading scientists in the Plant Metabolomics field, namely Prof. Ute Roessner (Metabolomics Australia, Australia), Dr Alisdair Fernie (Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Germany), Prof. Kazuki Saito (Metabolomics Research Group, RIKEN, Japan), Prof. Robert Hall (Wageningen Plant Research, The Netherlands), the team of the late Prof. Tsutomu Masujima (Laboratory for Single-Cell Mass Spectrometry, RIKEN, Japan), among others. I am truly honored to have played the role of editor in a book that unites so many worldwide researchers in the Plant Metabolomics field. The book is out now, so go get it!

What will be the challenges in plant metabolomics in the future?

We are still very much dependent on how deep we can go into the complexity of the plant metabolome and its interactions. Definitely, future challenges in plant metabolomics will be the analysis of the spatio-temporal metabolic signature dynamics of plant development.

See also