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Plant Physiol. 1988 Dec;88(4):1418-24.

Correlation between the Carbon Isotope Discrimination in Leaf Starch and Sugars of C(3) Plants and the Ratio of Intercellular and Atmospheric Partial Pressures of Carbon Dioxide.

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  • 1Plant Environmental Biology Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, G.P.O. Box 475, Canberra City, A.C.T. 2601, Australia.


Carbon isotope discrimination (Delta) was analyzed in leaf starch and soluble sugars, which represent most of the recently fixed carbon. Plants of three C(3) species (Populus nigra L. x P. deltoides Marsh., Gossypium hirsutum L. and Phaseolus vulgaris L.) were kept in the dark for 24 hours to decrease contents of starch and sugar in leaves. Then gas exchange measurements were made with constant conditions for 8 hours, and subsequently starch and soluble sugars were extracted for analysis of carbon isotope composition. The ratio of intercellular, p(i), and atmospheric, p(a), partial pressures of CO(2), was calculated from gas exchange measurements, integrated over time and weighted by assimilation rate, for comparison with the carbon isotope ratios in soluble sugars and starch. Carbon isotope discrimination in soluble sugars correlated strongly (r = 0.93) with p(i)/p(a) in all species, as did Delta in leaf starch (r = 0.84). Starch was found to contain significantly more (13)C than soluble sugar, and possible explanations are discussed. The strong correlation found between Delta and p(i)/p(a) suggests that carbon isotope analysis in leaf starch and soluble sugars may be used for monitoring, indirectly, the average of p(i)/p(a) weighted by CO(2) assimilation rate, over a day. Because p(i)/p(a) has a negative correlation with transpiration efficiency (mol CO(2)/mol H(2)O) of isolated plants, Delta in starch and sugars may be used to predict differences in this efficiency. This new method may be useful in ecophysiological studies and in selection for improved transpiration efficiency in breeding programs for C(3) species.

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