The spectral reflectance signature of living organisms provides information that closely reflects their physiological status. Because of its high potential for the estimation of geomorphic biological parameters, particularly of gross photosynthesis of plants, two-dimensional spectroscopy, via the use of hyperspectral instruments, has been widely used in remote sensing applications. In genetics research, in contrast, the reflectance phenotype has rarely been the subject of quantitative analysis; its potential for illuminating the pathway leading from the gene to phenotype remains largely unexplored. In this study, we employed hyperspectral imaging techniques to identify Arabidopsis mutants with altered leaf pigment status. The techniques are comprised of two modes; the first is referred to as the 'targeted mode' and the second as the 'non-targeted mode'. The 'targeted' mode is aimed at visualizing individual concentrations and compositional parameters of leaf pigments based on reflectance indices (RIs) developed for Chls a and b, carotenoids and anthocyanins. The 'non-targeted' mode highlights differences in reflectance spectra of leaf samples relative to reference spectra from the wild-type leaves. Through the latter approach, three mutant lines with weak irregular reflectance phenotypes, that are hardly identifiable by simple observation, were isolated. Analysis of these and other mutants revealed that the RI-based targeted pigment estimation was robust at least against changes in trichome density, but was confounded by genetic defects in chloroplast photorelocation movement. Notwithstanding such a limitation, the techniques presented here provide rapid and high-sensitive means to identify genetic mechanisms that coordinate leaf pigment status with developmental stages and/or environmental stress conditions.
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