Doing more with less in the study of plant chemical defense

ScienceDaily | 4/3/2019 | Staff
Traditional methods of measuring defense compounds use light to measure different chemicals in leaves using an apparatus called a spectrophotometer. These methods require large tissue samples, meaning that multiple leaves must be pooled together, collapsing meaningful variation. The technique reported here, using a microplate reader, detected activity in samples smaller than 10 mg, or 2% of the traditional tissue sample weight.

"One of the biggest constraints is the amount of tissue that is needed for traditional spectrophotometer-based assays," said Dr. Jack, the lead author of the study. "Now, because researchers don't have to combine leaves from a single plant, they can better explore localized versus systemic responses, or monitor individual plant response over time... It allows us to measure population-level variation and to parse out the influence of environment on genes."

Constraint - Time - Experiments - Dr - Jack

"The other constraint is the time needed to carry out these experiments," said Dr. Jack. The huge amounts of labor and time required to carry out assays using spectrophotometric methods put serious constraints on the number of samples that can be assessed. This limits feasible experimental designs, and consequently the types of questions one can hope to answer. Additionally, both the time and tissue demands of traditional methods make it more difficult to re-run a sample or reproduce a result. In this study, researchers were able to conduct a set of assays that would normally take 41 hours in only six hours.

Plant chemical defense is complex, involving the production...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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