Regular Paper

Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 112, Issue 3, pp 175-191

First online:

Photosynthetic responses of a C3 and three C4 species of the genus Panicum (s.l.) with different metabolic subtypes to drought stress

  • Sabrina U. AlfonsoAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, University of Frankfurt
  • , Wolfgang BrüggemannAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, University of FrankfurtBiodiversity and Climate Research Centre Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Young plants of Panicum bisulcatum (C3), Zuloagaea bulbosa [NADP-malic enzyme (ME)-C4], P. miliaceum (NAD-ME-C4) and Urochloa maxima [phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PCK)-C4] were subjected to drought stress (DS) in soil for 6 days. The C3 species showed severe wilting symptoms at higher soil water potential (−1.1 MPa) and relative leaf water content (77 %) than in the case of the C4 species (−1.5 to −1.7 MPa; 58–64 %). DS decreased photosynthesis, both under atmospheric and under saturating CO2. Stomatal limitation of net photosynthesis (P N) in the C3, but not in the C4 species was indicated by P N/C o curves. Chlorophyll fluorescence of photosystem II, resulting from different cell types in the four species, indicated NADPH accumulation and non-stomatal limitation of photosynthesis in all four species, even under high CO2. In the NAD-ME-C4 and the PCK-C4 species, DS plants showed increased violaxanthin de-epoxidase rates. Biochemical analyses of carboxylating enzymes and in vitro enzyme activities of the C4 enzymes identified the most likely non-stomatal limiting steps of photosynthesis. In P. bisulcatum, declining RubisCO content and activity would explain the findings. In Z. bulbosa, all photosynthesis enzymes declined significantly; photosynthesis is probably limited by the turnover rate of the PEPC reaction. In P. miliaceum, all enzyme levels remained fairly constant under DS, but photosynthesis can be limited by feedback inhibition of the Calvin cycle, resulting in asp inhibition of PEPC. In U. maxima, declines of in vivo PEPC activity and feedback inhibition of the Calvin cycle are the main candidates for non-stomatal limitation of photosynthesis under DS.


Drought stress Photosynthesis Chlorophyll fluorescence C4 plants Panicum NADP-ME NAD-ME PCK