Can phenotypic plasticity in Rubisco performance contribute to photosynthetic acclimation?
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Photosynthetic acclimation varies among species, which likely reveals variations at the biochemical level in the pathways that constitute carbon assimilation and energy transfer. Local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity affect the environmental response of photosynthesis. Phenotypic plasticity allows for a wide array of responses from a single individual, encouraging fitness in a broad variety of environments. Rubisco catalyses the first enzymatic step of photosynthesis, and is thus central to life on Earth. The enzyme is well conserved, but there is habitat-dependent variation in kinetic parameters, indicating that local adaptation may occur. Here, we review evidence suggesting that land plants can adjust Rubisco’s intrinsic biochemical characteristics during acclimation. We show that this plasticity can theoretically improve CO2 assimilation; the effect is non-trivial, but small relative to other acclimation responses. We conclude by discussing possible mechanisms that could account for biochemical plasticity in land plant Rubisco.
KeywordsRubisco Photosynthesis Acclimation rbcL rbcS
The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions on a previous version of this manuscript. This work was supported by a National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PGS-D scholarship to APC, and a Discovery Grant (327103-2008) to DSK.
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