Mass Spectrometry Imaging of xenobiotics in foliar systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


By 2050 it is expected that 4 billion of people will be living in countries with water scarcity, facing food shortages. At least 60% greater food production is needed to deliver future food security [1]. Crop Protection (CP) products (herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) are designed to meet this global challenge, producing plants that require less water, provide higher yield and are protected from insects, weeds and diseases. Understanding the identity and distribution of active ingredients in target foliar systems is of key importance for assessing CP project compounds and helping farmers produce safe, nutritious and affordable food while minimising environmental impact.
This project will explore the novel application of established and emerging mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) technologies to measure improved uptake, distribution and metabolism of active ingredients in leaves and plants [2]. The advantages that MSI offer over current approaches are that the studies can be conducted earlier in the project pipeline, producing richer data regarding the identity of the active ingredient (or it's metabolite) and endogenous species in shorter timescales.
MSI covers multiple techniques (MALDI, DESI, Nano/ToF-SIMS, LAESI etc) which are highly complementary to each other and to autoradiography or micro-spectroscopy techniques, providing unique molecular data for spatial metabolomics [3]. DESI and LAESI analyse samples under ambient conditions with no sample preparation providing spatial resolution on the 50-100 um scale including volatile metabolites normally lost during drying [4]. MALDI allows access to extended mass range including biopolymers at 10 um resolution. SIMS offers atomic/small molecular imaging at 0.1-1 um resolution for tracing metabolites at the sub-cellular scale [5].

This BBSRC-CASE PhD project is in collaboration with Syngenta, a world market leader in crop protection. The aim is to develop transferable protocols for studying important foliar systems using multiple mass spectrometry and complementary techniques. MSI technologies will be evaluated and benchmarked against performance criteria including sensitivity, specificity etc. Using optimised methodology, the project will then study CP product distribution in different plant/leaf species using various dosing/formulation protocols. At all stages, the student will benefit from world-leading expertise at CASE partner Syngenta in plant science and established bioimaging methods, and in mass spectrometry imaging at the University of Manchester. The student will receive a stipend enhancement of £2500 p.a.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008725/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2028
2618823 Studentship BB/T008725/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Akhila Ajith