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Changes in the abundance of sugars and sugar-like compounds in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) due to growth in naphthalene-treated sand


The hydrophilic metabolome of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) adapted to grow in naphthalene-treated sand (0.8 g kg−1 sand dw) was analysed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and peaks corresponding to the more abundant compounds were tentatively identified from analysis of their mass spectral features and reference to the NIST Mass Spectral Database. Particular attention was paid to sugars as they are known to play important roles as stress regulators in plants. The results showed that the abundance of sugars was greater in the roots but lesser in the shoots of treated plants when compared to their control counterparts. The results for indole acetic acid (IAA) were notable: IAA was prominently less in the treated roots compared to shoots, and in treated shoots, IAA was particularly subdued compared to untreated shoots consistent with IAA degradation in treated plant tissues. The differences in the molecular phenotype between control and treated plants were expressed in root structural differences. The treated roots were modified to have greater suberisation, enhanced thickening in the endodermis and distortions in the cortical zone as demonstrated through scanning electron and epi-fluorescence microscopy.

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The authors thank Professor Francis S Pullen and Dr. Kai Law for their suggestions on mass spectrometric work and Dr. Mark M Chapman for his suggestions on microscopic study, Professor Anthony I Mallet for his insightful comments on the draft of this manuscript and Dr. Stephen Young for his guidance on statistical interpretation of the data.

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Correspondence to Anuluxshy Balasubramaniyam.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Balasubramaniyam, A., Harvey, P.J. Changes in the abundance of sugars and sugar-like compounds in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) due to growth in naphthalene-treated sand. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 5817–5830 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-014-3812-9

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  • Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
  • Hydrophilic metabolome
  • Indole acetic acid (IAA)
  • Microscopy
  • Naphthalene contamination
  • Root structural modifications
  • Sugars
  • Tall fescue