Infrared microspectroscopic imaging of plant tissues: Spectral visualization of Triticum aestivum kernel and Arabidopsis leaf microstructure

Frederick J. Warren, Benjamin B. Perston, Silvia P. Galindez-Najera, Cathrina H. Edwards, Prudence O. Powell, Giusy Mandalari, Grant M. Campbell, Peter J. Butterworth, Peter R. Ellis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Infrared microspectroscopy is a tool with potential for studies of the microstructure, chemical composition and functionality of plants at a subcellular level. Here we present the use of high-resolution bench top-based infrared microspectroscopy to investigate the microstructure of Triticum aestivum L. (wheat) kernels and Arabidopsis leaves. Images of isolated wheat kernel tissues and whole wheat kernels following hydrothermal processing and simulated gastric and duodenal digestion were generated, as well as images of Arabidopsis leaves at different points during a diurnal cycle. Individual cells and cell walls were resolved, and large structures within cells, such as starch granules and protein bodies, were clearly identified. Contrast was provided by converting the hyperspectral image cubes into false-colour images using either principal component analysis (PCA) overlays or by correlation analysis. The unsupervised PCA approach provided a clear view of the sample microstructure, whereas the correlation analysis was used to confirm the identity of different anatomical structures using the spectra from isolated components. It was then demonstrated that gelatinized and native starch within cells could be distinguished, and that the loss of starch during wheat digestion could be observed, as well as the accumulation of starch in leaves during a diurnal period. Significance Statement Understanding the microstructure of wheat kernels is important for understanding how macronutrients are digested by mammals. Here we show that infrared microspectroscopy has enough resolution to identify cellular structures and to probe intracellular metabolite levels, and is therefore a useful complement to light and electron microscopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-646
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • hyperspectral imaging
  • in vitro digestion
  • infrared microspectroscopy
  • Triticum aestivum L.
  • wheat grain structure


Dive into the research topics of 'Infrared microspectroscopic imaging of plant tissues: Spectral visualization of Triticum aestivum kernel and Arabidopsis leaf microstructure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this