Chemical Analysis of Pollen by FT-Raman and FTIR Spectroscopies
A. Kenđel and B. Zimmermann
Pollen studies are important for the assessment of present and past environment, including biodiversity, sexual reproduction of plants and plant-pollinator interactions, monitoring of aeroallergens, and impact of climate and pollution on wild communities and cultivated crops. Although information on chemical composition of pollen is of importance in all of those research areas, pollen chemistry has been rarely measured due to complex and time-consuming analyses. Vibrational spectroscopies, coupled with multivariate data analysis, have shown great potential for rapid chemical characterization, identification and classification of pollen. This study, comprising 219 species from all principal taxa of seed plants, has demonstrated that high-quality Raman spectra of pollen can be obtained by Fourier transform (FT) Raman spectroscopy. In combination with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), FT-Raman spectroscopy is obtaining comprehensive information on pollen chemistry. Presence of all the main biochemical constituents of pollen, such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, carotenoids and sporopollenins, have been identified and detected in the spectra, and the study shows approaches to measure relative and absolute content of these constituents. The results show that FT-Raman spectroscopy has clear advantage over standard dispersive Raman measurements, in particular for measurement of pollen samples with high pigment content. FT-Raman spectra are strongly biased toward chemical composition of pollen wall constituents, namely sporopollenins and pigments. This makes Raman spectra complementary to FTIR spectra, which over-represent chemical constituents of the grain interior, such as lipids and carbohydrates. The results show a large variability in pollen chemistry for families, genera and even congeneric species, revealing wide range of reproductive strategies, from storage of nutrients to variation in carotenoids and phenylpropanoids. The information on pollen’s chemical patterns for major plant taxa should be of outstanding value for various studies in plant biology and ecology, including aerobiology, palaeoecology, forensics, community ecology, plant-pollinator interactions, and climate effects on plants.