Isoprene emission from velvet bean leaves: Interactions among nitrogen availability, growth photon flux density, and leaf development

Peter C. Harley, Marcy E. Litvak, Thomas D. Sharkey, Russell K. Monson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Although isoprene synthesis is closely coupled to photosynthesis, both via ATP requirements and carbon substrate availability, control of isoprene emission is not always closely linked to photosynthetic processes. In this study we grew velvet bean (Mucuna sp.) under different levels of photon flux density (PFD) and nitrogen availability in an effort to understand better the degree to which these two processes are linked. As has been observed in past studies, we found that during early leaf ontogeny the onset of positive rates of net photosynthesis precedes that of isoprene emission by 3 to 4 d. Other studies have shown that this lag is correlated with the induction of isoprene synthase activity, indicating that overall control of the process is under control of that enzyme. During leaf senescence, photosynthesis rate and isoprene emission rate declined in parallel, suggesting similar controls over the two processes. This coordinated decline was accelerated when plants were grown with high PFD and high nitrogen availability. The latter effect included declines in the photon yield of photosynthesis, suggesting that an unexplained stress arose during growth under these conditions, triggering a premature decline in photosynthesis and isoprene emission rate. In mature leaves, growth PFD and nitrogen nutrition affected photosynthesis and isoprene emission in qualitatively similar, but quantitatively different, ways. This resulted in a significant shift in the percentage of fixed carbon that was re-emitted as isoprene. In the case of increasing growth PFD, isoprene emission rate was more strongly affected than photosynthesis rate, and more carbon was lost as isoprene. In the case of increasing nitrogen, photosynthesis rate increased more than isoprene emission rate, and leaves containing high amounts of nitrogen lost a lower percentage of their assimilated carbon as isoprene. Taken together, our results demonstrate that, although the general correlation between isoprene emission rate and photosynthesis rate is consistently expressed, there is evidence that both processes are capable of independent responses to plant growth environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-285
Number of pages7
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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