U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Metabolic Imaging: Watching Sugars Move in Plants
Published: December 14, 2012
Posted: March 26, 2013

Fluorine-18 is a radioactive isotope that emits positrons. Using positron emission tomography (PET), scientists can image the movement and localization, in living organisms, of molecules that contain fluorine-18. Fluorine-18-labeled-fluorosugars, that is, natural sugars into which fluorine-18 atoms have been incorporated, enable study of the mechanisms by which living organisms use and process these biomolecules and offer opportunities to observe sugar distribution and metabolism in real time. Fluorine-18 fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG) has already been established as an important PET imaging agent in human medicine. It is well known that vascular plants transport the bulk of their carbohydrate load in the form of sucrose. Now, U.S. Department of Energy scientists at the University of Missouri—Columbia have synthesized fluorine-18-fluoro-deoxy-sucrose (FDS) and used it to obtain the first images of corn plant leaves that demonstrate realtime transport of the sugar. Their results will enable investigators to image sucrose metabolism in living plants and, from these images, gain insight into metabolic pathways in plants with potential value for biofuel production.

Reference: Gaddam, V., and M. Harmata. 2013. “Synthesis of 6′-Deoxy-6′-Fluorosucrose,” Carbohydrate Research 369, 38–41. DOI: 10.1016/j.carres.2012.12.001. (Reference link)

Contact: Prem Srivastava, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4071
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Legacy: Radiochemistry and Instrumentation

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)