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Research article2009Peer reviewedOpen access

In Situ Mapping of Nutrient Uptake in the Rhizosphere Using Nanoscale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry

Clode, Peta L.; Kilburn, Matt R.; Jones, David L.; Stockdale, Elizabeth A.; Cliff, John B., III; Herrmann, Anke M.; Murphy, Daniel V.


Plant roots and microorganisms interact and compete for nutrients within the rhizosphere, which is considered one of the most biologically complex systems on Earth. Unraveling the nitrogen (N) cycle is key to understanding and managing nutrient flows in terrestrial ecosystems, yet to date it has proved impossible to analyze and image N transfer in situ within such a complex system at a scale relevant to soil-microbe-plant interactions. Linking the physical heterogeneity of soil to biological processes marks a current frontier in plant and soil sciences. Here we present a new and widely applicable approach that allows imaging of the spatial and temporal dynamics of the stable isotope (15)N assimilated within the rhizosphere. This approach allows visualization and measurement of nutrient resource capture between competing plant cells and microorganisms. For confirmation we show the correlative use of nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry, and transmission electron microscopy, to image differential partitioning of (15)NH(4)(+) between plant roots and native soil microbial communities at the submicron scale. It is shown that (15)N compounds can be detected and imaged in situ in individual microorganisms in the soil matrix and intracellularly within the root. Nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry has potential to allow the study of assimilatory processes at the submicron level in a wide range of applications involving plants, microorganisms, and animals.

Published in

Plant Physiology
2009, Volume: 151, number: 4, pages: 1751-1757

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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