The effects of high temperature on isoprene synthesis in oak leaves


Correspondence: T. D.Sharkey UW–Madison Department of Botany, B214 Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706–1381, USA. Tel: +1 608 262 6802; Fax: +1 608 262 7509; E-mail:


Isoprene emission from plants is highly temperature sensitive and is common in forest canopy species that experience rapid leaf temperature fluctuations. Isoprene emission declines with temperature above 35 °C but the temperature at which the decline begins varies between 35 and 44 °C. This variability is caused by the rate at which leaf temperature is increased during measurement with lower temperatures associated with longer measurement cycles. To investigate this we exposed leaves of red oak (Quercus rubra L.) to temperature regimes of 35–45 °C for periods of 20–60 min. Isoprene emission increased during the first 10 min of high temperature exposure and then decreased over the next 10 min until it reached steady state. This phenomenon was common at temperatures above 35 °C but was not noticeable at temperatures below that. The response was reversible within 30 min by lowering leaf temperature to 30 °C. Because there is no storage of isoprene inside the leaf, this behaviour indicates regulation of isoprene synthesis in the leaf. We demonstrated that the variability in isoprene decline results from regulation and explains the variability in the temperature response. This is consistent with our theory that isoprene protects leaves from damage caused by rapid temperature fluctuations.