, 49:435 | Cite as

Effects of elevated temperature on photosynthesis in desert plant Alhagi sparsifolia S

  • W. Xue
  • X. Y. LiEmail author
  • L. S. Lin
  • Y. J. Wang
  • L. Li
Original Papers


Most plants growing in temperate desert zone exhibit brief temperature-induced inhibition of photosynthesis at midday in the summer. Heat stress has been suggested to restrain the photosynthesis of desert plants like Alhagi sparsifolia S. It is therefore possible that high midday temperatures damage photosynthetic tissues, leading to the observed inhibition of photosynthesis. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms underlying heat-induced inhibition of photosynthesis in A. sparsifolia, a dominant species found at the transition zone between oasis and sandy desert on the southern fringe of the Taklamakan desert. The chlorophyll (Chl) a fluorescence induction kinetics and CO2 response curves were used to analyze the thermodynamic characters of both photosystem II (PSII) and Rubisco after leaves were exposed to heat stress. When the leaves were heated to temperatures below 43°C, the initial fluorescence of the dark-adapted state (Fo), and the maximum photochemical efficiency of PSII (Fv/Fm), the number of active reaction centers per cross section (RCs) and the leaf vitality index (PI) increased or declined moderately. These responses were reversed, however, upon cooling. Moreover, the energy allocation in PSII remained stable. The gradual appearance of a K point in the fluorescence curve at 48°C indicated that higher temperatures strongly impaired PSII and caused irreversible damage. As the leaf temperature increased, the activity of Rubisco first increased to a maximum at 34°C and then decreased as the temperature rose higher. Under high-temperature stress, cell began to accumulate oxidative species, including ammoniacal nitrogen, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and superoxide (O2 ·−), suggesting that disruption of photosynthesis may result from oxidative damage to photosynthetic proteins and thylakoid membranes. Under heat stress, the biosynthesis of nonenzyme radical scavenging carotenoids (Cars) increased. We suggest that although elevated temperature affects the heat-sensitive components comprising of PSII and Rubisco, under moderately high temperature the decrease in photosynthesis is mostly due to inactivation of dark reactions.

Additional key words

Alhagi sparsifoliaelevated temperature oxidative species photosystem II Rubisco activity 



the specific energy fluxes (per cross section) for absorption






the intercellular CO2 concentration


the dissipated energy flux per cross section


the electron transport flux per cross section


the minimal fluorescence of the dark adapted state


the maximal fluorescence of the dark adapted state


the maximum photochemical efficiency of PSII


hydrogen peroxide


hydroxyl radical


oxygenevolving complexes




Rubisco activase


the number of active reaction centers per cross section


the photorespiration rate


leaf vitality index


photosystem II


reactive oxygen species


the rate of CO2 assimilation


the trapped energy fluxes per cross section



This research was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (2009CB421303), the key program for Science and Technology Development of Xinjiang (200933125), and the key Project in the National Science and Technology Pillar Program (2009BAC54B03). We thank anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Xue
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • X. Y. Li
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • L. S. Lin
    • 1
    • 3
  • Y. J. Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • L. Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Cele National Station of Observation & Research for Desert Grassland EcosystemCeleXinjiang, China

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