CHEMICAL ECOLOGY UNIT
Chromatographic, spectroscopic and electrophysiological data on pheromones and volatile organic compounds
Rothamsted’s Chemical Ecology facility delivers high quality chromatographic, spectroscopic and electrophysiological data relating to the composition of natural products that mediate interactions between organisms, e.g. pheromones and volatile organic compounds. Our expert analysis is employed to answer a range of biological questions, predominantly in biological chemistry, chemical biology and chemical ecology. Chemical ecology research involves the analysis of complex biological samples collected from crops, farmed livestock and human beings, and the interrogation of analysed samples to locate and identify semiochemicals that mediate host – insect pest/pathogen/weed (IPPW) interactions.
Analysis of collected samples is carried out using advanced state-of-the art chromatographic and spectroscopic techniques (gas chromatogrpahyGC, GC-mass spectroscopy/MS, liquid chromatography/LC, LC-MS, supercritical fluid chromatography/SFC-MS, small molecule nuclear magnetic resonance/NMR spectroscopy) that can pick out semiochemicals produced in vanishingly small (sub-pg) amounts. Collected data are then processed to provide either target-specific or large-scale complex datasets that can be analysed using a variety of statistical methods where needed.
In addition, our facility offers expertise in analysis of pheromones and semiochemicals collected from IPPWs and purification (SFC-MS) required for bioassay-guided studies. The facility also offers expertise in the purification (using FPLC) / high field NMR analysis of recombinant proteins involved in the recognition of pheromones utilised by IPs. The facility also offers electrophysiological expertise (electroantennography/EAG, GC-EAG) in the interrogation of biological samples using insect antennae to locate pheromone and semiochemical components within collected samples that can be then identified using GC-MS.
Our facility staff have a combined experience of over 40 years in biological chemistry, chemical biology and chemical ecology R & D linked to IPPW management, including operation of instrumentation and knowledge of semiochemistry. We are ideally positioned to contribute to projects at any scale involving IPPWs affecting crop, farmed livestock (terrestrial and marine) and human health. This breadth of expertise includes structure elucidation of complex pheromones and semiochemicals which is vital when analysis of biological samples yields novel chemical compounds for which there exists no pre-existing analytical (MS or NMR) data in spectral libraries or scientific literature.
The facility is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art equipment, having received significant capital investment from BBSRC in 2021/2022 for upgrade of its GC, GC-MS, SFC-MS and FPLC instruments. In late 2023, we will be upgrading our NMR facility to include the UK’s first biomolecular NMR instrument with world-leading capability in solution/solid-state biomolecular NMR analysis of biological samples.