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Title: Exploratory Project: Rigid nanostructured organic polymer monolith for in situ collection and analysis of plant metabolites from soil matrices

Plant metabolites released from litter leachates and root exudates enable plants to adapt and survive in a wide range of habitats by facilitating resource foraging and plant-organismal interactions, and could influence soil carbon storage. The biological functions of these plant inputs and the organismal interactions they facilitate in soil are strictly governed by their composition and molecular identity. Our current understanding about the molecular identity of exudates is based on physiological studies that are done in soil-less axenic cultures. On the other hand, ecological studies that rely on isotope labeling to track the fluxes of carbon from plants to soil have found the complexities of soil-microbe matrices as an insurmountable barrier to undertake any meaningful molecular level characterization of plant inputs. Although it is constantly advocated to undertake a molecular level identification of the dynamicity of plant metabolites in soils, the complexity of soil system has thus far prevented any such endeavors. We developed polymeric probes through in-situ polymerization of poly(styrene-co-vinylbenzyl chloride-co-divinylbenzene) to elucidate the chemical environment of the soil to which the plant roots are exposed. Hypercrosslinking of the polymeric probes through an in-situ Friedel-Crafts alkylation significantly increased the surface area and the sorption capacity of the probes. Surfacemore » functionalization of the probes using a hybrid approach was also attempted. The efficacy of these probes was tested using batch equilibration. Scanning electron microscopy revealed extensive modification of the surface of the probes through hypercrosslinking. The probes exhibited a lower site specific sorption (slope of Freundlich adsorption isotherm close to unity) and percent recovery of the sorbed compounds from the probes were >70, indicating a predominance of reversible sorption. Further we imparted specificity to this copolymer matrix by using molecular-template imprinting approach for the selective capture of less abundant plant metabolites from a crowded soil/litter leachate. Our results suggests that i) the root exudate pattern of plants is highly dependent on the nutrient status of the plant, with greater specificity of root exudation occurring in growing medium with low available form of nutrients, ii) the chemical composition of root exudation is a function of the distance of sampling from the source-roots, with the composition of root exudation being more enriched in polar metabolites farther from the source-roots, iii) Further we demonstrated that the compounds present in real root exudates diffuse farther from the source roots than those in artificial root exudates that are traditionally used. Thus, our project highlights how the soil matrix is instrumental in modifying the chemical composition of root exudates, and highlights that, apart from the plant physiology, the specificity and function of root exudates is also modified by environmental factors.« less
  1. Clemson Univ., SC (United States)
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Clemson Univ., SC (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; root exudates, soil carbon