, Volume 175, Issue 2, pp 275-289

Differential chemical allocation and plant adaptation: A Py-MS Study of 24 species differing in relative growth rate

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The chemical composition of leaves of 24 wild species differing in potential relative growth rate (RGR) was analysed by pyrolysis-mass spectrometry. The variation in RGR significantly correlated with differences in chemical composition: slow-growing species were richer in glucan-based polysaccharides and in C16:0 fatty acid, whereas fast growing ones contained more protein (other than those incorporated in cell walls) and chlorophyll, sterols and diglycerides. Other, apparently significant correlations, e.g. for pentose-based hemicellulose and for guaiacyl lignin appeared solely based on a group separation between mono- and dicotyledonous species.

Considering the eleven monocotyledonous and thirteen dicotyledonous species separately, correlations were found in addition to the previously mentioned general ones. Within the group of the monocotyledons the low-RGR species were significantly enriched in pentose-based hemicellulose, ferulic acid and (hydroxy)proline-rich cell wall protein and nearly significant in guaiacyl and syringyl lignin, fast-growing species contained more potassium. Within the group of the dicotyledons slow-growing species were enriched in triterpenes and aliphatic wax esters.

In general, the monocotyledons contained more cell wall material such as pentose-based hemicellulose, ferulic acid, glucans (including cellulose) and guaiacyl-lignin, and also more aliphatic wax esters, than the dicotyledons. The dicotyledons, on the other hand, contained somewhat more protein than the grasses.

Per unit weight of cell wall, the amount of (hydroxy)proline- rich protein in low-RGR species was comparatively low. A higher investment of cell wall proteins to explain the low rate of photosynthesis per unit of leaf nitrogen of slow-growing species as suggested by Lambers and Poorter (1992), therefore, seems unlikely.