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

BER Research Highlights

Sneak Peak at How Stressed Plants Mobilize the Resources
Published: November 01, 2010
Posted: November 05, 2010

The ability of plants to withstand stresses depends on a coordinated chain of events from the molecular level to the whole plant. Our ability to effectively develop plants as sustainable feedstocks for biofuels requires that we understand the impacts of these stresses. DOE-funded researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Tufts University have shown that plants re-allocate a significant portion of their below-ground nitrogen resources when defense mechanisms are triggered in response to herbivory (being eaten or under attack). Using a combination of short-lived PET (positron emission tomography) radioisotopes, including carbon-11 and nitrogen-13, administered to leaves of intact tomato plants, they were able to "see" the movement of sugars and amino acids away from the simulated attack sites. The results argue for strong physiological adaptive responses by plants as a tolerance defense mechanism. This research has important implications for bioenergy feedstock development since the next generation of plant feedstocks will need to withstand many environmental challenges including drought, limited nutrients and disease. Modifying plants with the right defense traits could improve the robustness of future feedstocks. The research is reported in the November issue of New Phytologist, along with a commentary on the significance of the new findings.


Gómez, S., R.A. Ferrieri, M. Schueller, and C. M. Orians. 2010. "Methyl Jasmonate Elicits Rapid Changes in Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics in Tomato" New Phytologist 188, 835-44.

Anten, N.P.R., and R. Pierik. 2010. "Moving Resources Away From the Herbivore: Regulation and Adaptive Significance," New Phytologist 188, 643-45.

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)