On May 1, 2006 all the Chemistry Department imaging programs transferred to the BNL Medical Department, however all programmatic material herein remains unchanged.

Exploring Root Physiology in Relation to Uptake of Groundwater Pollutants

   A long-standing challenge to plant biologists has been to find the physiological basis for whole-plant responses to environment. Plants have evolved with mechanisms that coordinate the changing vascular transport of nutrients between foliage and roots as the plant grows, under wide ranging environmental stresses - shortage of water and nutrients, attack by herbivores and pathogens, pollution of soil and air. The transport mechanisms and defense responses are key to management of plants and ecosystems, but have been elusive to study, particularly as there have been no non-invasive techniques to observe the nutrient transport within intact plants. Short-lived positron-emitting radioisotopes provide that opportunity, allowing repeated measurement within a plant over time, with high temporal and spatial resolution. By radio-labeling pollutants we can also probe the interplay of pollutant transport and plant metabolism. We are combining Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Phosphor-Plate Imaging to investigate the impacts of nutrient, water and pollutants on plant growth processes, and on pollution using the short-lived isotopes 11C and 13N. 

   Phytoremediation: Groundwater contamination by organic and chlorocarbon compounds presents a direct health risk and also contributes to atmospheric pollution with further risks to health. We are studying the interaction of plant metabolism and pollutant uptake and emissions with a view to reducing volatile emissions.  For example carbon tetrachloride entering plants via the roots was found to be metabolized in leaves into less volatile compounds. This metabolism places a new demand for plant carbon resources that we are investigating by imaging the distribution of [11C]carbohydrate.

This program is supported by a Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Grant (LDRD). We acknowledge Brookhaven National Laboratory for this support.

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Last Modified: June 28, 2012