Plant biodiversity and regulation of photosynthesis in the natural environment
Investigation of photosynthesis regulation in different plant groups exposed to variable conditions showed that all species have similar photosynthetic electron transport modulation while excess energy dissipation is species specific.
Photosynthesis is regulated in response to dynamic environmental conditions to satisfy plant metabolic demands while also avoiding possible over-excitation of the electron transport chain and the generation of harmful reactive oxygen species. Photosynthetic organisms evolved several mechanisms to modulate light harvesting and electron transport efficiency to respond to conditions changing at different timescales, going from fast sun flecks to slow seasonal variations. These regulatory mechanisms changed during evolution of photosynthetic organisms, also adapting to various ecological niches, making the investigation of plant biodiversity highly valuable to uncover conserved traits and plasticity of photosynthetic regulation and complement studies on model species. In this work, a set of plants belonging to different genera of angiosperms, gymnosperms, ferns and lycophytes were investigated by monitoring their photosynthetic parameters in different seasons looking for common trends and differences. In all plants, analysed photosynthetic electron transport rate was found to be modulated by growth light intensity, ensuring a balance between available energy and photochemical capacity. Growth light also influenced the threshold where heat dissipation of excitation energy, a mechanism called non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), was activated. On the contrary, NPQ amplitude did not correlate with light intensity experienced by the plants but was a species-specific feature. The zeaxanthin-dependent component of NPQ, qZ, was found to be the most variable in different plants and its modulation influenced the intensity and the kinetic properties of the response.
KeywordsPhotosynthesis Acclimation Non-photochemical quenching Photoprotection Plant biodiversity
We would like to thank Botanical Garden of Padova personnel and in particular Roberto Tacchetto and Simone Mazzucato for their support during sampling and measurements.
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