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Quantifying Plant Soluble Protein and Digestible Carbohydrate Content, Using Corn (Zea mays) As an Exemplar.

Authors
  • Deans, Carrie A1
  • Sword, Gregory A2
  • Lenhart, Paul A3
  • Burkness, Eric4
  • Hutchison, William D4
  • Behmer, Spencer T2
  • 1 Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University; Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota; [email protected]
  • 2 Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University.
  • 3 Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.
  • 4 Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Visualized Experiments
Publisher
MyJoVE Corporation
Publication Date
Aug 06, 2018
Issue
138
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3791/58164
PMID: 30124669
Source
Medline
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Elemental data are commonly used to infer plant quality as a resource to herbivores. However, the ubiquity of carbon in biomolecules, the presence of nitrogen-containing plant defensive compounds, and variation in species-specific correlations between nitrogen and plant protein content all limit the accuracy of these inferences. Additionally, research focused on plant and/or herbivore physiology require a level of accuracy that is not achieved using generalized correlations. The methods presented here offer researchers a clear and rapid protocol for directly measuring plant soluble proteins and digestible carbohydrates, the two plant macronutrients most closely tied to animal physiological performance. The protocols combine well characterized colorimetric assays with optimized plant-specific digestion steps to provide precise and reproducible results. Our analyses of different sweet corn tissues show that these assays have the sensitivity to detect variation in plant soluble protein and digestible carbohydrate content across multiple spatial scales. These include between-plant differences across growing regions and plant species or varieties, as well as within-plant differences in tissue type and even positional differences within the same tissue. Combining soluble protein and digestible carbohydrate content with elemental data also has the potential to provide new opportunities in plant biology to connect plant mineral nutrition with plant physiological processes. These analyses also help generate the soluble protein and digestible carbohydrate data needed to study nutritional ecology, plant-herbivore interactions and food-web dynamics, which will in turn enhance physiology and ecological research.

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