Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 36, Issue 10, pp 1058-1067

First online:

Partitioning of New Carbon as 11C in Nicotiana tabacum Reveals Insight into Methyl Jasmonate Induced Changes in Metabolism

  • Nils HanikAffiliated withFachbereich Chemie, Johannes Gutenberg Universität
  • , Sara GómezAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode IslandDepartment of Biology, Tufts University
  • , Marcel BestAffiliated withFachbereich Chemie, Johannes Gutenberg Universität
  • , Michael SchuellerAffiliated withMedical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • , Colin M. OriansAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Tufts University
  • , Richard A. FerrieriAffiliated withMedical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory Email author 

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We examined the timeline by which methyl jasmonate (MeJA) reprograms new carbon partitioning into key metabolite pools. The radioactive isotope 11C (t1/2 20.4 min), administered to intact leaves of Nicotiana tabacum L. (cv Samsun) as 11CO2 gas enabled us to measure changes in new carbon partitioning into soluble sugar and amino acid pools of [11C]photosynthate. A 500 μM MeJA treatment resulted in a decrease in the [11C]soluble sugar pool and an increase in the [11C]amino acid pool after 4 h. This pattern was more pronounced 15 h after treatment. We also examined the timeline for 11C-partitioning into aromatic amino acid metabolites of the shikimate pathway. [11C]Tyrosine, [11C]phenylalanine and [11C]tryptophan were elevated 1.5-fold, 12-fold and 12-fold, respectively, relative to controls, 4 h after MeJA treatment, while endogeneous pools were unchanged. This suggests that only new carbon is utilized during early stages of defense induction. By 15 h, [11C]tyrosine and [11C]phenylalanine returned to baseline while [11C]tryptophan was elevated 30-fold, suggesting that MeJA exerts selective control over the shikimate pathway. Finally, we measured trans-cinnamic acid levels as a gauge of downstream phenolic metabolism. Levels were unchanged 4 h after MeJA treatment relative to controls, but were increased 2-fold by 15 h, indicating a lag in response of secondary metabolism.

Key Words

Methyl jasmonate Plant defenses Metabolic partitioning Chemical signaling Short-lived radiotracers 11C Nicotiana tabacum Shikimate pathway