, Volume 181, Issue 3, pp 378-384

Very high CO2 partially restores photosynthesis in sunflower at low water potentials

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We re-examined the question of whether the stomata limit photosynthesis in dehydrated sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) plants having low leaf water potentials. A gas-exchange apparatus was modified to operate at external CO2 partial pressures as high as 3000 Pa (3%), which were much higher than previously achieved. This allowed photosynthesis and stomatal behavior to be monitored simultaneously at very high CO2 in the same leaf. The data were compared with those from leaves treated with abscisic acid (ABA) where effects on photosynthesis are entirely stomatal. Photosynthesis was inhibited at low water potential and was only slightly enhanced by increasing the external CO2 partial pressure from 34 Pa (normal air) to 300 Pa. Photosynthesis in ABA-treated leaves was similarly inhibited but recovered fully at 300 Pa. In both cases, the stomata closed to the same extent as judged from the average conductance of the leaves. Because the ABA effect resulted from diffusion limitation for CO2 caused by stomatal closure, the contrasting data show that most of the dehydration effect was nonstomatal at low water potentials. When CO2 partial pressures were raised further to 3000 Pa, photosynthesis increased somewhat at low water potentials but not in ABA-treated leaves. This indicates that some nonstomatal component of photosynthesis responded differently in leaves at low water potential and leaves treated with ABA. Because this component was only partially restored by very high CO2, it was likely to be metabolic and was an important source of photosynthetic inhibition.

This work was supported by grant DE-FG02-87ER13776 from the Department of Energy and a grant from E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company.