Breathe in, breathe out

Ethylene production from various biological samples Traces of volat­ile organic com­pounds (VOCs) — gasses such as ethyl­ene, nitric oxide and eth­anol — play an import­ant role in many areas of life sci­ences ran­ging from agro­tech­no­logy, micro­bi­o­logy, molecu­lar bio­logy, physiology, and phyto­path­o­logy. In plants, many bio­lo­gical pro­cesses can be fol­lowed by ultra low-concentration gas emis­sions. Examples include the cir­ca­dian rhythm of ethyl­ene pro­duc­tion in Arabidopsis thali­ana and from fungus-infected toma­toes, and meth­ane emis­sions from plants — which can pro­duce meth­ane in aer­obic con­di­tions. Nitric oxide (NO) plays an import­ant role in plant growth and devel­op­ment, sto­matal reg­u­la­tion, and pro­tec­tion against biotic and abi­otic stresses — and can also be used to mon­itor the response of plants infec­ted with pathogens.

A paper in AoB PLANTS describes new meth­ods for online and real-time mon­it­or­ing of trace gases that are now avail­able. Laser based instru­ments have a sens­it­iv­ity at the single part per bil­lion level and a response time of a few seconds. This allows the dynam­ics of trace gases such as ethyl­ene, nitric oxide and other VOCs released by plants under dif­fer­ent con­di­tions to be recor­ded and ana­lysed under nat­ural con­di­tions. These are indis­pens­able tools for applic­a­tions which can­not be ful­filled by exist­ing tech­no­logy, such as gas chromatography.


Frans Harren and Simona Cristescu. Online, real-time detec­tion of volat­ile emis­sions from plant tis­sue. AoB PLANTS (2013) 5: plt003 doi: 10.1093/aobpla/plt003


Ann Bot is a gestalt entity who works in the office for the Annals of Botany.

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