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Cell wall ester modifications and volatile emission signatures of plant response to abiotic stress.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Growth suppression and defence signalling are simultaneous strategies that plants invoke to respond to abiotic stress. Here, we show that the drought stress response of poplar trees (Populus trichocarpa) is initiated by a suppression in cell wall derived methanol (MeOH) emissions and activation of acetic acid (AA) fermentation defences. Temperature sensitive emissions dominated by MeOH (AA/MeOH <30%) were observed from physiologically active leaves, branches, detached stems, leaf cell wall isolations and whole ecosystems. In contrast, drought treatment resulted in a suppression of MeOH emissions and strong enhancement in AA emissions together with volatiles acetaldehyde, ethanol, and acetone. These drought-induced changes coincided with a reduction in stomatal conductance, photosynthesis, transpiration, and leaf water potential. The strong enhancement in AA/MeOH emission ratios during drought (400%-3500%) was associated with an increase in acetate content of whole leaf cell walls, which became significantly 13 C2 -labelled following the delivery of 13 C2 -acetate via the transpiration stream. The results are consistent with both enzymatic and nonenzymatic MeOH and AA production at high temperature in hydrated tissues associated with accelerated primary cell wall growth processes, which are downregulated during drought. While the metabolic source(s) require further investigation, the observations are consistent with drought-induced activation of aerobic fermentation driving high rates of foliar AA emissions and enhancements in leaf cell wall O-acetylation. We suggest that atmospheric AA/MeOH emission ratios could be useful as a highly sensitive signal in studies investigating environmental and biological factors influencing growth-defence trade-offs in plants and ecosystems.

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