Metabotyping of Caenorhabditis elegans reveals latent phenotypes
Assigning functions to every gene in a living organism is the next challenge for functional genomics. In fact, 85-90% of the 19,000 genes of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans genome do not produce any visible phenotype when inactivated, which hampers determining their function, especially when they do not belong to previously characterized gene families. We used H-1 high-resolution magic angle spinning NMR spectroscopy (H-1 HRMAS-NMR) to reveal the latent phenotype associated to superoxide dismutase (sod-1) and catalase (ctl-1) C elegans mutations, both involved in the elimination of radical oxidative species. These two silent mutations are significantly discriminated from the wild-type strain and from each other. We identify a metabotype significantly associated with these mutations involving a general reduction of fatty acyl resonances from triglycerides, unsaturated lipids being known targets of free radicals. This work opens up perspectives for the use of H-1 HRIVIAS-NIVIR as a molecular phenotyping device for model organisms. Because it is amenable to high throughput and is shown to be highly informative, this approach may rapidly lead to a functional and integrated metabonomic mapping of the C elegans genome at the systems biology level.