Tomato was one of the first plant species to be evaluated using metabolomics and remains one of the best characterized, with tomato fruit being both an important source of nutrition in the human diet and a valuable model system for the development of fleshy fruits. Additionally, given the broad habitat range of members of the tomato clade and the extensive use of exotic germplasm in tomato genetic research, it represents an excellent genetic model system for understanding both metabolism per se and the importance of various metabolites in conferring stress tolerance. This review summarizes technical approaches used to characterize the tomato metabolome to date and details insights into metabolic pathway structure and regulation that have been obtained via analysis of tissue samples taken under different developmental or environmental circumstance as well as following genetic perturbation. Particular attention is paid to compounds of importance for nutrition or the shelf-life of tomatoes. We propose furthermore how metabolomics information can be coupled to the burgeoning wealth of genome sequence data from the tomato clade to enhance further our understanding of (i) the shifts in metabolic regulation occurring during development and (ii) specialization of metabolism within the tomato clade as a consequence of either adaptive evolution or domestication.
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