Polyphenol oxidase activity in the roots of seedlings of Bromus (Poaceae) and other grass genera

Claus Holzapfel, Pouyan Shahrokh, David Kafkewitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Premise of the study: Phenolic compounds exuded by roots have been implicated in allelopathic interactions among plants. Root enzymes that destroy phenolics may protect plants against allelopathic inhibition and thus may aid in invasiveness. Phenolic-degrading enzymes are chiefl y found in aboveground plant parts, but have also been previously reported in root tissues where the enzyme' s function is unknown. We explored phenolic oxidase activity in emerging roots of grasses in a survey across different grass genera; in particular, we aimed to test whether grasses of the genus Bromus, known for their large invasion potential, differ in this respect from other grass taxa. Methods: We assayed a range of grass genera commonly found in the United States for root enzyme activity with spectrophotometric assays of phenol oxidase activity using l -DOPA as the main substrate. Key results: In the survey of a grass genera, we discovered that roots of the genus Bromus contain large amounts of polyphenol oxidase (PPO) activity, while all other tested grass genera, even ones closely related to Bromus, did not. PPO was found to be present at germination and remained active throughout the life of the plant. Compared to other PPOs, the enzyme present in Bromus appears to have a narrow substrate range. Conclusions: The specific functions of the root PPO and the ecological ramifi cations of the special status of Bromus are not yet clear. The possibility that the enzyme plays a role in plant species interaction for bromes, a genus of grasses known to have high invasive potential, is raised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1195-1199
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


  • Allelopathy
  • Bromus
  • Poaceae
  • Polyphenol oxidase
  • Roots


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