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Sabine Freitag

Staff picture: Sabine Freitag
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Metabolic Analyst
+44 (0)1382 568919

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK


I work as a Phytochemical Analyst within the Environmental and Biochemical Sciences Group, contributing to the exploitation of phytochemical diversity in some of the James Hutton Institute’s core crops such as soft fruit, potato, barley and wheat.

Current research interests

Currently I am involved in the “BacHBerry” project, a three-year EU-FP7 funded project on BACterial Hosts for the production of bioactive polyphenolics from bERRY fruits. The overall objective of the project is to develop a portfolio of sustainable methodologies to mine the potential of the untapped biodiversity of the bioactive polyphenolic compounds in an extensive collection of berry species. Overall, 18 partners are involved in the project, from research groups, small, medium and large enterprises, representing 10 countries. Within this multidisciplinary project my responsibilities include the development and application of metabolite profiling/screening tools of polyphenolic compounds in various berry species from Europe, Russia, China and South America using LC-ESI-ToF (Liquid Chromatography – Electrospray Ionisation -Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry) in combination with MS deconvolution software, data mining and chemometric statistical tools, with a view of biosynthetic pathway elucidation and exploitation. 

In addition, I am also involved in the Strategic Partnership Programme “The sustainable production of food in Scotland: The link from crops to products.” The project aim is to evaluate sustainable agricultural practices on several core crops such as wheat, barley, potato and field beans. In order to ensure the shift to agricultural sustainability one key question within the project is to assess whether organic farming will have deleterious impacts on quality, nutritive value and food safety of core crops in comparison to conventional farming. Hereby I am focusing on the exploitation of phytochemical diversity in these crops and how these are affected by different agronomic practices, using both qualitative and semi/quantitative tools. I employ hyphenated mass spectrometry such as UPLC/HPLC-ESI-ToF and QQQ (Triple Quadrupole) mass spectrometry in combination with MS deconvolution software, data mining and chemometric statistical tools.

Past research

During my second postdoc position (2012-2013) at the James Hutton Institute Dundee with Professor Derek Stuart and Dr Alexandre Foito I have been contributing towards the Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme “ClimaFruit”. This collaborative project, including countries from the North Sea Region (NSR) such as the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany aimed to establish transnational co-operation between research institutions and the NSR berry fruit industry in order to maximise the implementation of innovative technologies. It was focused on producing methods to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry, superior plant material and future production strategies better suited to the NSR climate. One key question involved how phytochemical properties/ qualities were influenced by climate change and different agronomic practices.

Hereby I was responsible for the chemical analysis of flavonoids in soft fruits (raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant provided by the different collaborators) using hyphenated mass spectrometry including triple quadrupole  (QQQ) for absolute quantification of flavonoids and time of flight (ToF) mass spectrometry for untargetted chemical analysis, followed by subsequent data analysis in combination with other targeted chemical data such as sugars (fructose, glucose, sucrose), organic acids (mali, citric, oxalic acid) but also sensory data.   

My first postdoc position (2010-2012), undertaken at the University of Aberdeen with Professor Jörg Feldmann and Dr Eva Krupp, involved a phytoavailability and solubility study of an iron (III) phosphate based molluscicide, which intrinsicially also contains a chelating agent (EDTA or EDDS). Iron (III) phosphate as such is stable, non-volatile and most importantly has a very low solubility in water. While the low solubility minimises the dispersal of iron (III) phosphate beyond where it is applied, the question arose as to whether it is bioavailable.  Additionally, the impact of the intrinsically present chelating agent in the molluscicide on externally present environmentally important metals on the uptake in cucumber plants was investigated.    

My PhD project (2006-2010), undertaken at the Environmental Research Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands/ University of Aberdeen, with the title “Metabolic differentiation in the lichen Cladonia portentosa from different wet nitrogen deposition regimes” investigated metabolic alterations in the pollution sensitive reindeer lichen Cladonia portentosa due to nitrogen enrichment (field sites vs field manipulation experiment). I employed metabolite fingerprinting and profiling techniques in combination with non-supervised and supervised statistical tools. This approach allowed me to discover in a more unbiased way, novel and more specific lipid biomarkers, which can be used to assess critical loads for wet nitrogen deposition. This research was in collaboration with Professor P.D. Crittenden and Dr Erika Hogan from the University of Nottingham.


Printed from /staff/sabine-freitag on 09/08/20 09:22:39 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.