Ethylene gas released during the fruit ripening process can be detected using these new fluorescent probes through a fluorescence microscope, according to a report published on March 26, 2019.
Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone that regulates a wide range of biological processes in plants. The methods that are currently used for measuring ethylene gas, which include gas chromatography and photoacoustic spectrometry, consume more time and rely on sophisticated instrumental methods. The new fluorescent probes were developed by researchers from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the Department of Chemistry, NUS.
A class of transition metal carbene complexes known as Grubbs catalysts were used to develop the probes. It can detect ethylene up to a level of 0.9 ppm (parts per million) in air. Even in the presence of other possible gaseous species that might be emitted by ripening fruits, researchers found the probe to be effective in detecting ethylene gas. Moreover, this probe could be used to determine ethylene formation during fruit ripening to determine the fruit maturity levels for harvesting and storage.
Weakly fluorescent molecules are present in the probe, which are activated when exposed to ethylene gas. When ethylene gas is detected, the color intensity increases. The probe was used by the researchers to monitor the ethylene gas emitted by four different types of fruits, namely passion fruit, avocado, banana, and apple. They found that the ethylene release rate increases linearly with storage time. Their results were same as the results obtained in previous studies using other detection methods. Professor Huang Dejian said, “This research opens up a new avenue for the application of Grubbs catalysts in the bioanalytical chemistry of ethylene, which is important for plant biology, agriculture and the food industry.”
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