, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 443-451
Date: 14 Mar 2009

The role of Rubisco and cell walls in the interspecific variation in photosynthetic capacity

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Photosynthetic capacity is known to vary considerably among species. Its physiological cause and ecological significance have been one of the most fundamental questions in plant ecophysiology. We studied the contents of Rubisco (a key enzyme of photosynthesis) and cell walls in leaves of 26 species with a large variation in photosynthetic rates. We focused on photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency (PNUE, photosynthetic rate per nitrogen), which can be expressed as the product of Rubisco-use efficiency (RBUE, photosynthetic rate per Rubisco) and Rubisco nitrogen fraction (RNF, Rubisco nitrogen per total leaf nitrogen). RBUE accounted for 70% of the interspecific variation in PNUE. The variation in RBUE was ascribed partly to stomatal conductance, and other factors such as mesophyll conductance and Rubisco kinetics might also be involved. RNF was also significantly related to PNUE but the correlation was relatively weak. Cell wall nitrogen fraction (WNF, cell wall nitrogen per total leaf nitrogen) increased with increasing leaf mass per area, but there was no correlation between RNF and WNF. These results suggest that nitrogen allocation to cell walls does not explain the variation in PNUE. The difference in PNUE was not caused by a sole factor that was markedly different among species but by several factors each of which was slightly disadvantageous in low PNUE species.

Communicated by R. Sage.