Assessment of a 18 F-Phenylboronic Acid Radiotracer for Imaging Boron in Maize

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Feb 1;21(3):976. doi: 10.3390/ijms21030976.


Boron (B) is an essential plant micronutrient. Deficiencies of B have drastic consequences on plant development leading to crop yield losses and reductions in root and shoot growth. Understanding the molecular and cellular consequences of B deficiency is challenging, partly because of the limited availability of B imaging techniques. In this report we demonstrate the efficacy of using 4-fluorophenylboronic acid (FPBA) as a B imaging agent, which is a derivative of the B deficiency mimic phenylboronic acid (PBA). We show that radioactively labelled [18F]FPBA (t½=110 m) accumulates at the root tip, the root elongation zone and at lateral root initiation sites in maize roots, and also translocates to the shoot where it accumulates along the leaf edges. Treatment of maize seedlings using FPBA and PBA causes a shortened primary root phenotype with absence of lateral roots in a dose-dependent manner. The primary root defects can be partially rescued by the addition of boric acid indicating that PBA can be used to induce B deficiency in maize and that radioactively labelled FPBA can be used to image sites of B demand on a tissue level.

Keywords: boron; maize; phenylboronic acid; radiotracer.

MeSH terms

  • Boron / analysis
  • Boron / metabolism*
  • Boronic Acids / metabolism*
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / metabolism*
  • Meristem / growth & development
  • Meristem / metabolism
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Radioactive Tracers*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / metabolism*
  • Zea mays / growth & development
  • Zea mays / metabolism*


  • Boronic Acids
  • Radioactive Tracers
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • benzeneboronic acid
  • Boron