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Hydrogen isotope discrimination in higher plants: Correlations with photosynthetic pathway and environment

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The ratio of deuterium to hydrogen (expressed as δD) in hydrogen released as water during the combustion of dried plant material was examined. The δD value (metabolic hydrogen) determined on plant materials grown under controlled conditions is correlated with pathways of photosynthetic carbon metabolism. C3 plants show mean δD values of-132‰ for shoots and -117‰ for roots; C4 plants show mean δD values of -91‰ for shoots and-77‰ for roots and CAM plants a δD value of-75‰ for roots and shoots. The difference between the δD value of shoot material from C3 and C4 plants was confirmed in species growing under a range of glasshouse conditions. This difference in δD value between C3 and C4 species does not appear to be due to differences in the δD value (tissue water) in the plants as a result of physical fractionation of hydrogen isotopes during transpiration. In C3 and C4 plants the hydrogen isotope discrimination is in the same direction as the carbon isotope discrimination and factors contributing to the difference in δD values are discussed. In CAM plants grown in the laboratory or collected from the field δD values range from-75‰ to +50‰ and are correlated with δ13C values. When deprived of water, the δD value (metabolic hydrogen) in both soluble and insoluble material in leaves of Kalanchoe daigremontiana Hamet et Perr., becomes less negative. These changes may reflect the deuterium enrichment of tissue water during transpiration, or in field conditions, may reflect the different δD value of available water in areas of increasing aridity. Whatever the origin of the variable δD value in CAM plants, this parameter may be a useful index of the water relations of these plants under natural conditions.

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Ziegler, H., Osmond, C.B., Stichler, W. et al. Hydrogen isotope discrimination in higher plants: Correlations with photosynthetic pathway and environment. Planta 128, 85–92 (1976).

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