Phosphorus fractions in leaves

Lalith D.B. Suriyagoda, Megan H. Ryan, Clément E. Gille, Roberta L.C. Dayrell, Patrick M. Finnegan, Kosala Ranathunge, Dion Nicol, Hans Lambers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


Leaf phosphorus (P) comprises four major fractions: inorganic phosphate (Pi), nucleic acids, phospholipids, P-containing metabolites and a residual fraction. In this review paper, we investigated whether allocation of P fractions varies among groups of terrestrial vascular plants, and is indicative of a species' strategy to use P efficiently. We found that as leaf total P concentration increases, the Pi fraction increases the most, without a plateau, while other fractions plateau. Variability of the concentrations of leaf P fractions is greatest among families > species(family) > regions > plant life forms. The percentage of total P allocated to nucleic acid-P (20–35%) and lipid-P (14–34%) varies less among families/species. High photosynthetic P-use efficiency is associated with low concentrations of all P fractions, and preferential allocation of P to metabolite-P and mesophyll cells. Sequential resorption of P from senescing leaves starts with Pi, followed by metabolite-P, and then other organic P fractions. Allocation of P to leaf P fractions varies with season. Leaf phytate concentrations vary considerably among species, associated with variation in photosynthesis and defence. Plasticity of P allocation to its fractions is important for acclimation to low soil P availability, and species-specific P allocation is needed for co-occurrence with other species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1122-1135
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Early online date3 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


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