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Influence of Light and Photosynthesis on Alkaloid Concentration in Larkspur

Abstract

Concentrations of toxic norditerpenoid alkaloids vary greatly in tall larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi) and may be influenced by environmental stress. We evaluated the effect of shade, darkness, and inhibition of photosynthesis on toxic alkaloid concentration. In plants treated with metribuzin to inhibit photosynthesis, alkaloid concentration increased, but dry weight of the plants decreased as growth ceased, leaving absolute alkaloid content similar to that of control plants. Short-term shade (70% reduction in sunlight for three days), dark treatments from leaves collected at night, and aluminum foil covered leaves all increased alkaloid concentration in comparison to untreated control plants. It appears that absolute amounts of alkaloids remained the same, but the mass of stressed plants declined as nonstructural carbohydrates were depleted, thus increasing the relative concentration of alkaloids. We conclude that norditerpenoid alkaloids in larkspur do not respond to short-term light stress. Alkaloid concentration was lower in larkspur plants growing beneath forest canopy and in potted plants in a long-term shade study (70% reduction in sun light for 21 days) than plants growing in open sunlight. Long-term shade may have reduced synthesis of norditerpenoid alkaloids, particularly in the earlier developmental stages of the plant. Shade stress or photosynthesis inhibition apparently did not increase norditerpenoid alkaloid synthesis, which contrasts with the carbon/nutrient balance theory of plant defense.

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Correspondence to M. H. Ralphs.

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Ralphs, M.H., Manners, G.D. & Gardner, D.R. Influence of Light and Photosynthesis on Alkaloid Concentration in Larkspur. J Chem Ecol 24, 167–182 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022301331804

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  • Delphinium barbeyi
  • norditerpenoid alkaloids
  • methyllycaconitine
  • 14-deacetylnudicauline
  • environmental stress
  • shade
  • diurnal
  • dark
  • photosynthesis inhibition
  • metribuzin
  • carbon/nutrient balance theory