J. Exp. Bot. - (-) - [2022-01-27; online 2022-01-27]
Stable isotopes at natural abundance are key tools to study physiological processes occurring outside the temporal scope of manipulation and monitoring experiments. Whole-molecule carbon isotope ratios ( 13C/ 12C) enable assessments of plant carbon uptake yet conceal information about carbon allocation. Here, we identify an intramolecular 13C/ 12C signal at tree-ring glucose C-5 and C-6 and develop experimentally testable theories on its origin. More specifically, we assess the potential of processes within C3 metabolism for signal introduction based (inter alia) on constraints on signal propagation posed by metabolic networks. We propose that the intramolecular signal reports carbon allocation into major metabolic pathways in actively photosynthesising leaf cells including the anaplerotic, shikimate, and non-mevalonate pathway. We support our theoretical framework by linking it to previously reported whole-molecule 13C/ 12C increases in cellulose of ozone-treated Betula pendula and a highly significant relationship between the intramolecular signal and tropospheric ozone concentration. Our theory postulates a pronounced preference of leaf-cytosolic triose-phosphate isomerase to catalyse the forward reaction in vivo (dihydroxyacetone phosphate to glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate). In conclusion, intramolecular 13C/ 12C analysis resolves information about carbon uptake and allocation enabling more comprehensive assessments of carbon metabolism than whole-molecule 13C/ 12C analysis.