Plant surface reactions: an opportunistic ozone defence mechanism impacting atmospheric chemistry
Abstract. Elevated tropospheric ozone concentrations are considered a toxic threat to plants, responsible for global crop losses with associated economic costs of several billion dollars per year. Plant injuries have been linked to the uptake of ozone through stomatal pores and oxidative damage of the internal leaf tissue. But a striking question remains: can surface reactions limit the stomatal uptake of ozone and therefore reduce its detrimental effects to plants?
In this laboratory study we could show that semi-volatile organic compounds exuded by the glandular trichomes of different Nicotiana tabacum varieties are an efficient ozone sink at the plant surface. In our experiments, different diterpenoid compounds were responsible for a strongly variety-dependent ozone uptake of plants under dark conditions, when stomatal pores are almost closed. Surface reactions of ozone were accompanied by a prompt release of oxygenated volatile organic compounds, which could be linked to the corresponding precursor compounds: ozonolysis cis-abienol (C20H34O) – a diterpenoid with two exocyclic double bonds – caused emissions of formaldehyde (HCHO) and methyl vinyl ketone (C4H6O). The ring-structured cembratrien-diols (C20H34O2) with three endocyclic double bonds need at least two ozonolysis steps to form volatile carbonyls such as 4-oxopentanal (C5H8O2), which we could observe in the gas phase, too.
Fluid dynamic calculations were used to model ozone distribution in the diffusion-limited leaf boundary layer under daylight conditions. In the case of an ozone-reactive leaf surface, ozone gradients in the vicinity of stomatal pores are changed in such a way that the ozone flux through the open stomata is strongly reduced.
Our results show that unsaturated semi-volatile compounds at the plant surface should be considered as a source of oxygenated volatile organic compounds, impacting gas phase chemistry, as well as efficient ozone sink improving the ozone tolerance of plants.