Correlation-based network analysis of metabolite and enzyme profiles reveals a role of citrate biosynthesis in modulating N and C metabolism in zea mays

David Toubiana, Wentao Xue, Nengyi Zhang, Karl Kremling, Amit Gur, Shai Pilosof, Yves Gibon, Mark Stitt, Edward S. Buckler, Alisdair R. Fernie, Aaron Fait

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


To investigate the natural variability of leaf metabolism and enzymatic activity in a maize inbred population, statistical and network analyses were employed on metabolite and enzyme profiles. The test of coefficient of variation showed that sugars and amino acids displayed opposite trends in their variance within the population, consistently with their related enzymes. The overall higher CV values for metabolites as compared to the tested enzymes are indicative for their greater phenotypic plasticity. H2 tests revealed galactinol (1) and asparagine (0.91) as the highest scorers among metabolites and nitrate reductase (0.73), NAD-glutamate dehydrogenase (0.52), and phosphoglucomutase (0.51) among enzymes. The overall low H2 scores for metabolites and enzymes are suggestive for a great environmental impact or gene-environment interaction. Correlation-based network generation followed by community detection analysis, partitioned the network into three main communities and one dyad, (i) reflecting the different levels of phenotypic plasticity of the two molecular classes as observed for the CV values and (ii) highlighting the concerted changes between classes of chemically related metabolites. Community 1 is composed mainly of enzymes and specialized metabolites, community 2’ is enriched in N-containing compounds and phosphorylated-intermediates. The third community contains mainly organic acids and sugars. Cross-community linkages are supported by aspartate, by the photorespiration amino acids glycine and serine, by the metabolically related GABA and putrescine, and by citrate. The latter displayed the strongest node-betweenness value (185.25) of all nodes highlighting its fundamental structural role in the connectivity of the network by linking between different communities and to the also strongly connected enzyme aldolase.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1022
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Issue numberJULY2016
StatePublished - 12 Jul 2016


  • Correlation-based network analysis
  • Enzymatic processes
  • Metabolic networks and pathways
  • Metabolism
  • TCA cycle
  • Zea mays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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