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New approaches using mass spectrometry to investigate changes to cytokinin and abscisic acid (ABA) concentrations in soil

High, K.E., Ashton, P.D., Nelson, M., Rylott, E.L., Thomas-Oates, J.E., Hodson, M.E.
Soil biology & biochemistry 2019 v.135 pp. 108-116
abscisic acid, auxins, cytokinins, earthworms, growing media, hydroponics, mass spectrometry, monitoring, plant development, plant growth, plant tissues, soil
Phytohormones such as cytokinins, abscisic acid (ABA) and auxins play a vital role in plant development and regulatory processes. Their role within the plant is a focus for much research, with studies using recent advances in mass spectrometry performance allowing the quantification of low levels of phytohormones extracted from plant tissues. Despite these advances, external factors influencing the production of phytohormones are less well studied. Here, a new approach is presented for the extraction of a range of phytohormones from plant growth media (soil and hydroponic solution), their identification using high mass accuracy mass spectrometry and subsequent quantification using multiple reaction monitoring (MRM). The ability to detect phytohormones in matrices other than plant tissue presents the opportunity to study further the influence of factors such as below ground organisms and soil bacteria on phytohormone production.This novel approach was therefore applied to the plant growth media from a series of experiments comparing plant growth in the presence and absence of earthworms. A small but significant increase in ABA concentration was observed in the presence of earthworms, increasing even further when plants were also present. This finding suggests that earthworms could stimulate plant ABA production. This experiment and its outcomes demonstrate the value of studying phytohormones outside plant tissue, and the potential value of further research in this area.