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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e36433. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036433. Epub 2012 Apr 30.

Differential metabolisms of green leaf volatiles in injured and intact parts of a wounded leaf meet distinct ecophysiological requirements.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Faculty of Agriculture, Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi, Japan.


Almost all terrestrial plants produce green leaf volatiles (GLVs), consisting of six-carbon (C6) aldehydes, alcohols and their esters, after mechanical wounding. C6 aldehydes deter enemies, but C6 alcohols and esters are rather inert. In this study, we address why the ability to produce various GLVs in wounded plant tissues has been conserved in the plant kingdom. The major product in completely disrupted Arabidopsis leaf tissues was (Z)-3-hexenal, while (Z)-3-hexenol and (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate were the main products formed in the intact parts of partially wounded leaves. (13)C-labeled C6 aldehydes placed on the disrupted part of a wounded leaf diffused into neighboring intact tissues and were reduced to C6 alcohols. The reduction of the aldehydes to alcohols was catalyzed by an NADPH-dependent reductase. When NADPH was supplemented to disrupted tissues, C6 aldehydes were reduced to C6 alcohols, indicating that C6 aldehydes accumulated because of insufficient NADPH. When the leaves were exposed to higher doses of C6 aldehydes, however, a substantial fraction of C6 aldehydes persisted in the leaves and damaged them, indicating potential toxicity of C6 aldehydes to the leaf cells. Thus, the production of C6 aldehydes and their differential metabolisms in wounded leaves has dual benefits. In disrupted tissues, C6 aldehydes and their α,β-unsaturated aldehyde derivatives accumulate to deter invaders. In intact cells, the aldehydes are reduced to minimize self-toxicity and allow healthy cells to survive. The metabolism of GLVs is thus efficiently designed to meet ecophysiological requirements of the microenvironments within a wounded leaf.

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