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A method for routine measurements of total sugar and starch content in woody plant tissues

by P A K S Chow, Simon M Landhäusser
Tree physiology ()


Several extraction and measurementmethods currently employed in the determination of total sugar and starch contents in plant tissues were investigated with the view to streamline the process of total sugar and starch determination. Depending on the type and source of tissue, total sugar and starch contents estimated from samples extracted with 80% hot ethanol were significantly greater than from samples extracted with a methanol:chloroform:water solution. The residual ethanol did not interfere with the sugar and starch determination, rendering the removal of ethanol from samples unnecessary. The use of phenol–sulfuric acid with a phenol concentration of 2% provided a relatively simple and reliable colorimetric method to quantify the total soluble-sugar concentration. Performing parallel sugar assays with and without phenol was more useful for accounting for the interfering effects of other substances present in plant tissue than using chloroform. For starch determination, an enzyme mixture of 1000Uα-amylase and 5 U amyloglucosidase digested starch in plant tissue samples more rapidly and completely than previously recommended enzyme doses. Dilute sulfuric acid (0.005 N) was less suitable for starch digestion than enzymatic hydrolysis because the acid also broke down structural carbohydrates, resulting in overestimates of starch content. After the enzymatic digestion of starch, the glucose hydrolyzate obtained was measured with a peroxidase–glucose oxidase/o-dianisidine reagent; absorbance being read at 525 nm after the addition of sulfuric acid. With the help of this series of studies,we developed a refined and shortened method suitable for the rapid measurement of total sugar and starch contents in woody plant tissues.

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