Three-dimensional distribution of mineral elements in plant leaves
The optimal development of all organisms depends on the provision of sufficient amounts of essential nutrients. Plants acquire essential mineral elements through roots from soil solution, whilst humans and animals directly or indirectly from plants. That is why the elemental composition of the edible parts of plants is crucial in our diet. In plants, the local concentration of mineral elements differs between cell types and is related to the function of each mineral element. Despite the obvious importance of understanding the fate of mineral elements in plant tissues, we still do not know enough about the distribution of mineral elements in plant tissues. The main goals of the project are to create a 3D image of the distribution of mineral elements in leaves from 2D images and to train the principal investigator and young researchers in techniques to study the distribution of mineral elements in plant tissues independently. Micro-PIXE (particle-induced X-ray emission), a multi-element and quantitative technique with imaging resolution <1 µm is used. The object of the research is spinach: the edible leaves have a unique elemental composition as they contain large concentrations of Mg and Ca. Two genotypes that differ in Ca, Mg, and oxalate concentrations are being investigated. Oxalate in our diets limits the availability of Ca and Mg; in addition, oxalate crystals are a major constituent of kidney stones. From a nutritional point of view, it is therefore essential to select genotypes with a low oxalate concentration without negatively affecting Ca and Mg concentrations in spinach leaves.