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Isoprene synthesis protects transgenic tobacco plants from oxidative stress

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Claudia E. Vickers
  • Malcolm Possell
  • Christian Cojocariu
  • Violeta B. Velikova
  • Jullada Laothawornkitkul
  • Annette Ryan
  • Philip M. Mullineaux
  • C. N. Hewitt
Journal publication date2009
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Number of pages12
Original languageEnglish


Isoprene emission represents a significant loss of carbon to those plant species that synthesize this highly volatile and reactive compound. As a tool for studying the role of isoprene in plant physiology and biochemistry, we developed transgenic tobacco plants capable of emitting isoprene in a similar manner to and at rates comparable to a naturally emitting species. Thermotolerance of photosynthesis against transient high-temperature episodes could only be observed in lines emitting high levels of isoprene; the effect was very mild and could only be identified over repetitive stress events. However, isoprene-emitting plants were highly resistant to ozone-induced oxidative damage compared with their non-emitting azygous controls. In ozone-treated plants, accumulation of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) was inhibited, and antioxidant levels were higher. Isoprene-emitting plants showed remarkably decreased foliar damage and higher rates of photosynthesis compared to non-emitting plants immediately following oxidative stress events. An inhibition of hydrogen peroxide accumulation in isoprene-emitting plants may stall the programmed cell death response which would otherwise lead to foliar necrosis. These results demonstrate that endogenously produced isoprene provides protection from oxidative damage.