Penetration of UV‐B radiation in foliage: evidence that the epidermis behaves as a non‐uniform filter


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In some plants, particularly herbaceous species, a considerable proportion of incident ultraviolet‐B radiation (UV‐B, 280‐320 nm) penetrates into the leaf mesophyll where it is potentially damaging to nucleic acids and the photosyn‐thetic machinery. We used optical techniques to look at the spatial variation in UV‐B penetration through the epidermis of foliage of two herbaceous species (Chenopodium album and Smilacina stellata)and a conifer (Picea pun‐gens). Measurements of UV‐B penetration in intact foliage with a fibre‐optic microprobe revealed that 300 nm radiation reached 161±36μm (mean±SD) into leaves of C. album, 154±40μm in S. stellata and 17±2μm in P. pungens, with epidermal transmittance being 39±14%, 55±19% and 0%, respectively. A thin polymer film was developed which fluoresced blue when irradiated by UV‐B. Fresh epidermal leaf peels were placed over the film and irradiated with UV‐B, and microscopic examination of the film from below allowed us to determine the spatial pattern of UV‐B penetration through the epidermis. In herbaceous species, film fluorescence below cell walls, but not epidermal and guard cell protoplasts indicated that UV‐B transmittance was much greater through anticlinal cell wall regions than protoplasts. Ultraviolet‐B transmittance through large areas of epidermal cells could be induced by plasmolysis. Epidermal transmittance was also relatively high through stomal pores (and what appear to be nuclei in Smilacina), but relatively low through stomatal guard cells. Results from the fluorescing film technique were substantiated by direct measurements of UV‐B transmittance through epidermal peels with a fibre‐optic microprobe run paradermally along the bottom or inner side of irradiated peels. In Smilacina, we estimate that UV‐B epidermal transmittance was up to 90% through anticlinal cell wall regions, but <10% through protoplast areas. In contrast to herbaceous species, we did not detect any UV‐B transmittance through the epidermis of P. pungens with either the fluorescing film or the fibre‐optic microprobe technique. The epidermis appears to be a much more spatially uniform UV‐B filter in conifers than in these herbaceous species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-741
Number of pages7
JournalPlant, Cell & Environment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Chenopodium album
  • Picea pungens
  • Smilacina stellata.
  • cell wall
  • fibre optic
  • flavonoids
  • fluorescence
  • leaf optics
  • protoplasm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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