Light alters the allocation of nitrogen to cyanogenic glycosides in Eucalyptus cladocalyx

Anna E. Burns, Roslyn M. Gleadow, Ian E. Woodrow

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The effect of light on the partitioning of resources between photosynthesis and chemical defence was studied in Eucalyptus cladocalyx F. Muell. This species allocates up to 15% of leaf nitrogen to the constitutive cyanogenic glycoside, prunasin, making it an ideal system for studying resource allocation. By controlling the level of leaf nitrogen we were able to test the hypothesis that light limitation would result in the effective reallocation of nitrogen from the defensive to the photosynthetic apparatus. Seedlings were grown in full light or shade and supplied with 1.5 mM or 6 mM nitrogen in a 2x2 factorial design. We found that shading effected a decrease in the concentration of the cyanogenic glycoside, prunasin, and little if any change in the concentration of carbon-based secondary metabolites (total phenolics and condensed tannins). There was also significantly less prunasin, relative to total leaf nitrogen, chlorophyll concentration and carbon assimilation rates, when grown plants were grown in shade, particularly when there was an ample supply of nitrogen. This pattern is likely to be the result of relative changes in the energetic and resource costs of photosynthesis and defensive compounds at different photon flux densities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-294
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyanide
  • Herbivore defence
  • Nitrogen
  • Phenolics
  • Plant secondary metabolites

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