Background: Quantitative multi-elemental analysis by inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectrometry depends on a complete digestion of solid samples. However, fast and thorough sample digestion is a challenging analytical task which constitutes a bottleneck in modern multi-elemental analysis. Additional obstacles may be that sample quantities are limited and elemental concentrations low. In such cases, digestion in small volumes with minimum dilution and contamination is required in order to obtain high accuracy data.
Results: We have developed a micro-scaled microwave digestion procedure and optimized it for accurate elemental profiling of plant materials (1-20 mg dry weight). A commercially available 64-position rotor with 5 ml disposable glass vials, originally designed for microwave-based parallel organic synthesis, was used as a platform for the digestion. The novel micro-scaled method was successfully validated by the use of various certified reference materials (CRM) with matrices rich in starch, lipid or protein. When the micro-scaled digestion procedure was applied on single rice grains or small batches of Arabidopsis seeds (1 mg, corresponding to approximately 50 seeds), the obtained elemental profiles closely matched those obtained by conventional analysis using digestion in large volume vessels. Accumulated elemental contents derived from separate analyses of rice grain fractions (aleurone, embryo and endosperm) closely matched the total content obtained by analysis of the whole rice grain.
Conclusion: A high-throughput micro-scaled method has been developed which enables digestion of small quantities of plant samples for subsequent elemental profiling by ICP-spectrometry. The method constitutes a valuable tool for screening of mutants and transformants. In addition, the method facilitates studies of the distribution of essential trace elements between and within plant organs which is relevant for, e.g., breeding programmes aiming at improvement of the micronutrient density in edible plant parts. Compared to existing vial-in-vial systems, the new method developed here represents a significant methodological advancement in terms of higher capacity, reduced labour consumption, lower material costs, less contamination and, as a consequence, improved analytical accuracy following micro-scaled digestion of plant samples.
Hansen, T.H.; Laursen, K.H.; Persson, D.P.; Pedas, P.; Husted, S.; Schjoerring, J.K. Micro-scaled high-throughput digestion of plant tissue samples for multi-elemental analysis. Plant Methods (2009) 5 (1) 12. [DOI: 10.1186/1746-4811-5-12]