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Carbon isotope composition of carbohydrates and polyols in leaf and phloem sap of Phaseolus vulgaris L. influences predictions of plant water use efficiency

Journal article
Authors Millicent Smith
Birgit Wild
Andreas Richter
Kevin Simonin
Andrew Merchant
Published in Plant and Cell Physiology
Volume 57
Issue 8
Pages 1756-1766
ISSN 0032-0781
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 1756-1766
Language en
Keywords carbon, growth, isotopes, natural abundance, water, yield
Subject categories Botany, Agronomy


The use of carbon isotope abundance (δ13C) to assess plant carbon acquisition and water use has significant potential for use in crop management and plant improvement programs. Utilizing Phaseolus vulgaris L. as a model system, this study demonstrates the occurrence and sensitivity of carbon isotope fractionation during the onset of abiotic stresses between leaf and phloem carbon pools. In addition to gas exchange data, compound-specific measures of carbon isotope abundance and concentrations of soluble components of phloem sap were compared with major carbohydrate and sugar alcohol pools in leaf tissue. Differences in both δ13C and concentration of metabolites were found in leaf and phloem tissues, the magnitude of which responded to changing environmental conditions. These changes have inplications for the modeling of leaf-level gas exchange based upon δ13C natural abundance. Estimates of δ13C of low molecular weight carbohydrates and polyols increased the precision of predictions of water use efficiency compared with those based on bulk soluble carbon. The use of this technique requires consideration of the dynamics of the δ13C pool under investigation. Understanding the dynamics of changes in δ13C during movement and incorporation into heterotrophic tissues is vital for the continued development of tools that provide information on plant physiological performance relating to water use.

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