Uptake, degradation and chiral discrimination of N-acyl-D/L-homoserine lactones by barley (Hordeum vulgare) and yam bean (Pachyrhizus erosus) plants

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2007 Nov;389(5):1447-57. doi: 10.1007/s00216-007-1579-2. Epub 2007 Sep 26.


Bacterial intraspecies and interspecies communication in the rhizosphere is mediated by diffusible signal molecules. Many Gram-negative bacteria use N-acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) as autoinducers in the quorum sensing response. While bacterial signalling is well described, the fate of AHLs in contact with plants is much less known. Thus, adsorption, uptake and translocation of N-hexanoyl- (C6-HSL), N-octanoyl- (C8-HSL) and N-decanoyl-homoserine lactone (C10-HSL) were studied in axenic systems with barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and the legume yam bean (Pachyrhizus erosus (L.) Urban) as model plants using ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC), Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS) and tritium-labelled AHLs. Decreases in AHL concentration due to abiotic adsorption or degradation were tolerable under the experimental conditions. The presence of plants enhanced AHL decline in media depending on the compounds' lipophilicity, whereby the legume caused stronger AHL decrease than barley. All tested AHLs were traceable in root extracts of both plants. While all AHLs except C10-HSL were detectable in barley shoots, only C6-HSL was found in shoots of yam bean. Furthermore, tritium-labelled AHLs were used to determine short-term uptake kinetics. Chiral separation by GC-MS revealed that both plants discriminated D-AHL stereoisomers to different extents. These results indicate substantial differences in uptake and degradation of different AHLs in the plants tested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyl-Butyrolactones / metabolism*
  • Acyl-Butyrolactones / pharmacokinetics
  • Hordeum / metabolism
  • Pachyrhizus / metabolism
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Quorum Sensing
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Tritium


  • Acyl-Butyrolactones
  • Tritium