Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 112, Issue 3, pp 175–191 | Cite as

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

Regular Paper


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 









Amino transferase


Bundle sheath cells




Intercellular CO2




Ambient (applied) CO2




De-epoxidation state


Drought stress(ed)




Extraction buffer


Electron transport rate


Quantum yield of PS II in the light-adapted state


Stomatal conductance


50 % inhibiting concentration


Large subunit


Mesophyll cells


malate dehydrogenase


Malic enzyme




NAD-malic enzyme


NADP-malic enzyme


Non-photochemical quenching


Phosphate buffered saline


Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase


Net photosynthesis




PEP carboxylase


Pyruvate, orthophosphate dikinase


Photosystem II


Energy-dependent quenching


Photoinhibitory quenching


Photochemical quenching


Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase


Small subunit


Soil water content


Transpiration rate




Violaxanthin de-epoxidase


Water use efficiency





Thanks are due to Renate Pathe for excellent technical assistance and to the “Vereinigung der Freunde und Förderer der Goethe-Universität” for financial support of this study.

Supplementary material

11120_2012_9763_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (170 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 170 kb)
11120_2012_9763_MOESM2_ESM.tif (365 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (TIFF 364 kb)
11120_2012_9763_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (45 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 45 kb)
11120_2012_9763_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (42 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 41 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution and DiversityUniversity of FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Biodiversity and Climate Research CentreFrankfurtGermany

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