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Metabolite fingerprinting provides a powerful method for discriminating between biological samples on the basis of differences in metabolism caused by such factors as growth conditions, developmental stage or genotype. This protocol describes a technique for acquiring metabolite fingerprints from samples of plant origin. The preferred method involves freezing the tissue rapidly to stop metabolism, extracting soluble metabolites using perchloric acid (HClO4) and then obtaining a fingerprint of the metabolic composition of the sample using 1D 1H NMR spectroscopy. The spectral fingerprints of multiple samples may be analyzed using either unsupervised or supervised multivariate statistical methods, and these approaches are illustrated with data obtained from the developing seeds of two genotypes of sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Preparation of plant extracts for analysis takes 2-3 d, but multiple samples can be processed in parallel and subsequent acquisition of NMR spectra takes approximately 30 min per sample, allowing 24-48 samples to be analyzed in a week.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Protoc

Publication Date





1001 - 1012


Hydrogen, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Perchlorates, Plant Extracts, Plants