, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 617–622

Leaf development, gas exchange characteristics, and photorespiratory activity in maize seedlings

Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/s11099-010-0079-3

Cite this article as:
Kutschera, U., Pieruschka, R. & Berry, J.A. Photosynthetica (2010) 48: 617. doi:10.1007/s11099-010-0079-3


Five decades ago, a novel mode of CO2 assimilation that was later described as C4-photosynthesis was discovered on mature leaves of maize (Zea mays L.) plants. Here we show that 3- to 5-day-old developing maize leaves recapitulate the evolutionary advance from the ancient, inefficient C3 mode of photosynthesis to the C4 pathway, a mechanism for overcoming the wasteful process of photorespiration. Chlorophyll fluorescence measurements documented that photorespiration was high in 3-day-old juvenile primary leaves with non-specialized C3-like leaf anatomy and low in 5-day-old organs with the typical “Kranz-anatomy” of C4 leaves. Photosynthetic gas (CO2)-exchange measurements on 5-day-old leaves revealed the characteristic features of C4 photosynthesis, with a CO2 compensation point close to zero and little inhibition of photosynthesis by the normal oxygen concentration in the air. This indicates a very low photorespiratory activity in contrast to control experiments conducted with mature C3 sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) leaves, which display a high rate of photorespiration.

Additional key words

leaf developmentmaize seedlingsphotorespirationphotosynthesis





carbon dioxide compensation point


effective quantum yield of PSII of light-adapted leaves


photosystem II

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Plant Biology and Global EcologyCarnegie Institution for ScienceStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Institute of BiologyUniversity of KasselKasselGermany