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A novel analytical approach for visualizing and tracking organic chemicals in plants.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1/08/2004
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Journal number15
Volume38
Number of pages5
Pages4195-4199
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Vegetation plays a key role in the environmental fate of many organic chemicals, from pesticides applied to plants, to the air−vegetation exchange and global cycling of atmospheric organic contaminants. Our ability to locate such compounds in plants has traditionally relied on inferences being made from destructive chemical extraction techniques or methods with potential artifacts. Here, for the first time, two-photon excitation microscopy (TPEM) is coupled with plant autofluorescence to visualize and track trace levels of an organic contaminant in living plant tissue, without any form of sample modification or manipulation. Anthracene−a polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)−was selected for study in living maize (Zea mays) leaves. Anthracene was tracked over 96 h, where amounts as low as 0.1−10 pg were visible, as it moved through the epicuticular wax and plant cuticle, and was observed reaching the cytoplasm of the epidermal cells. By this stage, anthracene was identifiable in five separate locations within the leaf: (1) as a thin (5 μm) diffuse layer, in the upper surface of the epicuticular wax; (2) as thick (28 μm) diffuse bands extending from the epicuticular wax through the cuticle, to the cell walls of the epidermal cells; (3) on the external surface of epidermal cell walls; (4) on the internal surface of epidermal cell walls; and (5) within the cytoplasm of the epidermal cells. This technique provides a powerful nonintrusive tool for visualizing and tracking the movement, storage locations, and degradation of organic chemicals within vegetation using only plant and compound autofluorescence. Many other applications are envisaged for TPEM, in visualizing organic chemicals within different matrixes.