The temperature response of C(3) and C(4) photosynthesis

Rowan F Sage, David S Kubien
Plant, Cell & Environment 2007, 30 (9): 1086-106
We review the current understanding of the temperature responses of C(3) and C(4) photosynthesis across thermal ranges that do not harm the photosynthetic apparatus. In C(3) species, photosynthesis is classically considered to be limited by the capacities of ribulose 1.5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco), ribulose bisphosphate (RuBP) regeneration or P(i) regeneration. Using both theoretical and empirical evidence, we describe the temperature response of instantaneous net CO(2) assimilation rate (A) in terms of these limitations, and evaluate possible limitations on A at elevated temperatures arising from heat-induced lability of Rubisco activase. In C(3) plants, Rubisco capacity is the predominant limitation on A across a wide range of temperatures at low CO(2) (<300 microbar), while at elevated CO(2), the limitation shifts to P(i) regeneration capacity at suboptimal temperatures, and either electron transport capacity or Rubisco activase capacity at supraoptimal temperatures. In C(4) plants, Rubisco capacity limits A below 20 degrees C in chilling-tolerant species, but the control over A at elevated temperature remains uncertain. Acclimation of C(3) photosynthesis to suboptimal growth temperature is commonly associated with a disproportional enhancement of the P(i) regeneration capacity. Above the thermal optimum, acclimation of A to increasing growth temperature is associated with increased electron transport capacity and/or greater heat stability of Rubisco activase. In many C(4) species from warm habitats, acclimation to cooler growth conditions increases levels of Rubisco and C(4) cycle enzymes which then enhance A below the thermal optimum. By contrast, few C(4) species adapted to cooler habitats increase Rubisco content during acclimation to reduced growth temperature; as a result, A changes little at suboptimal temperatures. Global change is likely to cause a widespread shift in patterns of photosynthetic limitation in higher plants. Limitations in electron transport and Rubisco activase capacity should be more common in the warmer, high CO(2) conditions expected by the end of the century.

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