, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 359–366 | Cite as

Photosynthesis-Rubisco relationships in foliage of Pinus sylvestris in response to nitrogen supply and the proposed role of Rubisco and amino acids as nitrogen stores

  • Charles R. WarrenEmail author
  • Erwin Dreyer
  • Mark A. Adams
Original Article


Relationships between photosynthetic capacity, and needle contents of N, Rubisco and amino acids were investigated in potted Pinus sylvestris L. trees. Three-year-old seedlings of P. sylvestris were grown for 4 years with three nutrient regimes. Concentrations of N, amino acids, amides and Rubisco were measured and expressed on a needle area basis, and the in vivo performances of Rubisco (maximum rate of carboxylation, V cmax) and of electron transport (maximum light driven electron flux, J max) were estimated via a biochemically based model of photosynthesis. Needle content of Rubisco-N was at least six times that of amino acid + amide-N and was positively related to N area. The estimated in vivo specific activity of Rubisco (V cmax/Rubisco content per unit area) was low and negatively related to N content per unit area (N area). J max/Rubisco content was negatively related to N area, whereas V cmax/J max was unrelated to N area. Hence, Rubisco content was in excess of the amount required for photosynthesis and this excess was positively related to N area. These data support the hypothesis that with increasing N area, Rubisco functions increasingly as a storage protein in addition to its catalytic functions.


Excess nutrients Low nutrients Maximum rate of carboxylation Leaf gas exchange Photosynthesis 



rate of net photosynthesis


capillary electrophoresis


ambient CO2 concentration


intercellular CO2 concentration




maximum rate of electron transport

Kc and Ko

Michaelis-Menten constants for Rubisco carboxylation and oxygenation


specific activity of Rubisco


N content per unit projected leaf area


N concentration


intercellular oxygen concentration


photosynthetic photon flux density




'day' respiration (non-photorespiratory CO2 evolution)


Ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase


specific leaf area


maximum rate of Rubisco carboxylation



C.W. was supported by a department of CALM/UWA scholarship and an Australian Academy of Science award for young Australian researchers visiting Europe. The Australian Research Council is warmly thanked for financial support. Trees were grown by Jean Marie Gioria at INRA Nancy. Thanks are due to Natacha Guérard who gave access to her experimental design aimed at testing the impact of nitrogen supply on the sensitivity of Scots pines to a guild of pests and diseases. This experiment was part of a project supported by the Commission of the European Communities, Agriculture and Fisheries (FAIR) specific RTD Program CT96-1854 "Effects of water and nutrient stress on pine susceptibility to various pest and disease guilds". We gratefully acknowledge anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles R. Warren
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Erwin Dreyer
    • 2
  • Mark A. Adams
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.UMR INRA-UHPEcologie et Ecophysiologie ForestièresFrance
  3. 3.Forest Science CentreThe University of Melbourne/Natural Resources and EnvironmentCreswickAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Forest BiologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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