, Volume 177, Issue 2, pp 217-227

Response of photosynthesis and respiration of resurrection plants to desiccation and rehydration

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Using non-invasive techniques (CO2 gas exchange, light scattering, light absorption, chlorophyll fluorescence, chlorophyll luminescence), we have analysed the response of respiration and photosynthesis to dehydration and rehydration of leaves of the resurrection plants Craterostigma plantagineum Hochst., Ramonda mykoni Reichb. and Ceterach officinarum Lam. et DC. and of the drought-sensitive mesophyte spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). The following observations were made: (i) The rate of water loss during wilting of detached leaves of drought-tolerant resurrection plants was similar to that for leaves of the sensitive mesophyte, spinach. Leaves of Mediterranean xerophytes lost water much more slowly. (ii) Below a residual water content of about 20%, leaves of spinach did not recover turgor on rewatering, whereas leaves of the resurrection plants did. (iii) Respiration was less sensitive to the loss of water during wilting in the resurrection plants than in spinach. (iv) The sensitivity of photosynthesis to dehydration was similar in spinach and the resurrection plants. Up to a water loss of 50% from the leaves, photosynthesis was limited by stomatal closure, not by inhibition of reactions of the photosynthetic apparatus. Photosynthesis was inhibited and stomates reopened when loss of water became excessive. (v) After the leaves had lost 80% of their water or more, the light-dependent reactions of photosynthetic membranes were further inhibited by rewatering in spinach; they recovered in the resurrection plants. (vi) In desiccated leaves of the resurrection plants, slow rehydration reactivated mitochondrial gas exchange faster than photosynthetic membrane reactions. Photosynthetic carbon assimilation recovered only slowly.