Photosynthetic Adjustment to Temperature

  • Stefan Falk
  • Denis P. Maxwell
  • David E. Laudenbach
  • Norman P. A. Huner
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 5)


The description of a general mechanism for photosynthetic adjustment to temperature that encompasses all autotrophic species is not possible for three principal reasons: (i) inherent genetic diversity, (ii) differential strategies in growth and development, and (iii) organisms respond to temperature changes rather than to absolute temperature. Thus, ‘high’ and ‘low’ temperature are relative terms and will differ for pyschrophilic, mesophilic and thermophilic organisms. However, given this complexity, some consensus regarding photosynthetic adjustment to temperature is emerging. At low temperature (0–10 °C), photosynthesis is constrained thermodynamically. This may be manifested by chloroplast phosphate limitation due to reduced rates of sucrose synthesis and/or source-sink limitations. In this case, rates of CO2 uptake and O2 evolution are regulated directly through metabolite accumulation (feedback inhibition) and photosynthetic control. Alternatively, feedback inhibition may be regulated indirectly through catabolite repression of photosynthetic genes. Although light may exacerbate susceptibility to photoinhibition at low temperature in many species, cold grown, chilling-tolerant plants exhibit increased capacity for carbohydrate synthesis at low temperature which alleviates phosphate limitation, supplies a cryoprotectant and results in higher photosynthetic capacity than warm-grown plants. However, photosynthetic adjustment in cold-grown higher plants and algae does not reflect adjustment to low temperature per se, but rather, changes in excitation pressure on PS II. In contrast, photosynthesis in chilling-sensitive plants is not only constrained thermodynamically by low temperature but is also severely inhibited developmentally.

Through a comprehensive molecular genetic study, a direct link between photosynthetic temperature acclimation and thylakoid lipid unsaturation has been established in cyanobacteria. However, the evidence for such a link in algae and higher plants is still equivocal. PS I may be primary site for photoinhibition at low temperatures in some chilling-sensitive species. Furthermore, susceptibility to low temperature photoinhibition is reduced by altering the level of unsatruation of chloroplast lipids in chilling-sensitive transgenic tobacco plants.

With respect to high temperature (35–50 °C ), the consensus is that thylakoid membrane stability limits photosynthetic performance. In contrast to low temperature, light protects against high temperature inhibition of photosynthesis.


Light Response Curve Synechocystis PCC6803 Sucrose Synthesis Cold Tolerant Plant Photosynthetic Adjustment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Falk
    • 1
  • Denis P. Maxwell
    • 1
  • David E. Laudenbach
    • 1
  • Norman P. A. Huner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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