Stomatal Density Influences Leaf Water and Leaf Wax D/H Values in Arabidopsis

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Hyejung Lee1, Sarah J Feakins1 and Leonel O Sternberg2, (1)University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (2)Univ Miami, Miami, FL, United States
The hydrogen isotopic composition (δD) of plant leaf wax is a powerful tool to study the hydrology of past and present environments. The δD value of leaf waxes is known to primarily reflect the δD value of source water, modified by biological fractionations commonly summarized as the ‘net or apparent’ fractionation. It remains a challenge, however, to quantitatively relate the isotopic composition of the end product (wax) back to that of the precursor (water) because multiple isotope effects contributing to the net fractionation are not yet well understood. Transgenic variants have heretofore unexplored potential to isolate individual isotope effects. Here we report the first hydrogen isotopic measurements from transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants with calculations of leaf water enrichment, net and biosynthetic fractionation values from measured δD of plant waters and leaf wax n-alkanes. We employed transgenic Arabidopsis leaves, engineered to have different stomatal density, by differential expression of the stomatal growth hormone stomagen. Comparison of variants and wild types allow us to isolate the effects of stomatal density on leaf water and the net fractionation expressed by leaf wax biomarkers. Results show that transgenic leaves with denser pores have more enriched leaf water and leaf wax δD values than wild type and even more so than transgenic leaves with sparse stomata (difference of 10 ‰). Our findings that stomatal density controls leaf water and leaf wax δD values adds insights into the cause of variations in net fractionations between species, as well as suggesting that geological variations in stomatal density may modulate the sedimentary leaf wax δD record. In nature, stomatal density varies between species and environments, and all other factors being equal, this will contribute to variations in fractionations observed. Over geological history, lower stomatal densities occur at times of elevated pCO2; our findings predict reduced leaf water isotopic enrichment and larger net fractionations during these greenhouse conditions. Future work involving transgenic plants holds considerable potential to isolate additional factors which may influence the net fractionation between source water and leaf waxes adding to our fundamental understanding of this proxy.