Lipids occur throughout the living world and are important molecules found in microbes, higher plants, animals and in all cell types. The main biological functions of lipids include storing energy, signalling, and acting as structural components of cell membranes. Lipids are a large and vastly varied group of organic compounds built from a limited number of building blocks resulting in an enormous chemical structural diversity. This diversity is necessary to provide the many roles different lipids provide in cell development and metabolism. The function of many lipid species is yet to be established in mammalian systems, and in plants we have even less understanding of the roles and importance of the more diverse set of plant lipids in development, growth and stress response.
The field of lipidomics, which aims to analyse the entire lipidome of an organism, is now well established and has provided substantial breakthroughs in biomedical research. In our research programs, these methodologies are now being deployed to investigate lipidome changes of plants following exposure to environmental stress or genetic alterations. We have already shown that the plant lipidome is significantly more complex compared to mammals, is highly defined by tissue type and is highly responsive to abiotic stress, including salinity and temperature stress. I will present our efforts in the development of comprehensive plant lipidomics methods using orthogonal and imaging mass spectrometry approaches and their application to understand plant responses to abiotic stress.