Numerous aquatic invertebrates survive harsh environments by displaying dormancy as encysted embryos. This study aimed at determining whether metabolomics could provide molecular insight to explain the “dormancy syndrome” by highlighting functional pathways and metabolites, hence offering a novel comprehensive molecular view of dormancy. We compared the metabolome of morphologically distinct dormant encysted embryos (resting eggs) and non-dormant embryos (amictic eggs) of a rotifer (Brachionus plicatilis). Metabolome profiling revealed ~5,000 features, 1,079 of which were annotated. Most of the features were represented at significantly higher levels in non-dormant than dormant embryos. A large number of features was assigned to putative functional pathways indicating novel differences between dormant and non-dormant states. These include features associated with glycolysis, the TCA and urea cycles, amino acid, purine and pyrimidine metabolism. Interestingly, ATP, nucleobases, cyclic nucleotides, thymidine and uracil, were not detected in dormant resting eggs, suggesting an impairment of response to environmental and internal cues, cessation of DNA synthesis, transcription and plausibly translation in the dormant embryos. The levels of trehalose or its analogues, with a role in survival under desiccation conditions, were higher in resting eggs. In conclusion, the current study highlights metabolomics as a major analytical tool to functionally compare dormancy across species.
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