Stomata are key gateways mediating carbon uptake and water loss from plants. Varied stomatal densities in fossil leaves raise the possibility that isotope effects associated with the openness of exchange may have mediated plant wax biomarker isotopic proxies for paleovegetation and paleoclimate in the geological record. Here we use Arabidopsis thaliana, a widely used model organism, to provide the first controlled tests of stomatal density on carbon and hydrogen isotopic compositions of cuticular waxes. Laboratory grown wildtype and mutants with suppressed and overexpressed stomatal densities allow us to directly test the isotope effects of stomatal densities independent of most other environmental or biological variables. Hydrogen isotope (D/H) measurements of both plant waters and plant wax n-alkanes allow us to directly constrain the isotopic effects of leaf water isotopic enrichment via transpiration and biosynthetic fractionations, which together determine the net fractionation between irrigation water and n-alkane hydrogen isotopic composition. We also measure carbon isotopic fractionations of n-alkanes and bulk leaf tissue associated with different stomatal densities. We find offsets of +15‰ for δD and -3‰ for δ13C for the overexpressed mutant compared to the suppressed mutant. Since the range of stomatal densities expressed is comparable to that found in extant plants and the Cenozoic fossil record, the results allow us to consider the magnitude of isotope effects that may be incurred by these plant adaptive responses. This study highlights the potential of genetic mutants to isolate individual isotope effects and add to our fundamental understanding of how genetics and physiology influence plant biochemicals including plant wax biomarkers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology