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Tracking sugar movement in plants
Date:4/8/2014

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by scientists at the University of Queensland, Australia, overturns a long-held theory in plant science [see:http://www.bnl.gov/newsroom/news.php?a=11631]. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory who are co-authors on this paper conducted critical radiotracer studies that support the new theory that plant sugars play a dominant role in regulating branching at plant stems. While branching has relevance in agriculture, it is also very important in bioenergy crop production.

Brookhaven plant biologist Benjamin Babst and Brittany Wienclaw, who was a summer intern as part of the DOE Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program at Brookhaven while working on her degree at the University of New Haven, conducted an essential experiment to verify that sugars play a key role in apical dominance and the regulation of plant bud growth. The aim of their part of this study was to test if sugars produced in leaves via photosynthesis move downward through plants in greater quantities when shoot tips are removed, and quickly enough to trigger bud growth farther down.

To trace the sugars, the scientists first had to add a radioactive "tag" to these molecules. The tag they used was a positron-emitting isotope of carbon, carbon-11, incorporated into carbon dioxide. When they administered this labeled CO2 to plant leaves, the plants incorporated the radioactive carbon into sugars via photosynthesis. The scientists then tracked the labeled sugars throughout the plant using detectors placed along the plant stem.

The time taken for the 11C-labeled sugars to move between two detectors on upper and lower regions of the stem was used to calculate sugar transport speeds. The scientists also monitored how much sugar accumulated at different positions, incl
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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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